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At the Rink: Sharks at Stars

by Steve Hunt / NHL.com

DALLAS -- With the Dallas Stars on a six-game losing streak (0-4-2), coach Lindy Ruff decided to shake things up by jumbling his defense pairs ahead of a Saturday game against the San Jose Sharks at American Airlines Center.

Ruff broke up his top pair of Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski. Brenden Dillon, who had been with Jordie Benn on the second pair, will play alongside Daley and Goligoski will play with Benn. The third pair will be Kevin Connauton and Sergei Gonchar.

Dallas, which last won Oct. 21 against the Vancouver Canucks, lost 3-2 to the Nashville Predators on Thursday, when Ruff saw plenty of signs the Stars are ready to break out.

"Well, obviously we haven't won. The other night we had enough opportunities to win the game. I think when you give [Tyler] Seguin and [Jamie] Benn seven or eight opportunities that they had, if they find the back of the net that game's ours. But they didn't. I believe they will," Ruff said. "We had some great opportunities on second opportunities, and I think if you build off that and a little bit sharper on special teams, you win a game."

The Stars are down a forward after right wing Valeri Nichushkin had to leave practice early Friday. Dallas recalled Curtis McKenzie from Texas of the American Hockey League on Saturday morning and McKenzie figures to skate on the left side of the Stars second line, alongside center Jason Spezza and wing Ales Hemsky.

McKenzie, the 2014 AHL Rookie of the Year and a part of the Texas Stars' Calder Cup-winning team, appeared in two games with Dallas earlier this season before returning to the AHL.

"I am definitely very excited to be back here," McKenzie said. "I think the first time I was here was a bit of an eye-opening time, kind of feeling out the process here. Now I am a lot more prepared to come back and step in."

Dallas did not do line rushes in practice Friday or during the morning skate Saturday. Hemsky and Spezza missed practice Friday when the veterans had a maintenance day.

Backup goaltender Anders Lindback was first off the ice and is expected to get his first start for Dallas since Oct. 25 at the New York Islanders.

San Jose, which lost 3-2 to Vancouver on Thursday, is starting a seven-game road trip; San Jose is 5-2-2 on the road.

"Anytime you can win on the road, especially early, it goes a long way," Pavelski said. "You don't want to be sitting there a game, two games in without a win. We're going to try to get one [Saturday]."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan is making two minor changes to his lineup. Tye McGinn returns to the right side of the fourth line, alongside left wing Andrew Desjardins and center Adam Burish.

Matt Irwin will play on third defensive pairing, alongside Jason Demers.

"He'll draw back in [Saturday] and we'll need him moving forward," McLellan said of Irwin. "Everybody's important, so we'll need him."

Backup goalie Alex Stalock was first off the ice for the Sharks and will start, ending a string of five straight starts for Antti Niemi.

"He'll be very capable of playing. He has to be ready at any given moment just like [Niemi] does," McLellan said of Stalock.

Here are the projected lineups:

SHARKS

Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Matt Nieto

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Tomas Hertl - James Sheppard - Tyler Kennedy

Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish - Tye McGinn

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Mirco Mueller - Brent Burns

Matt Irwin - Jason Demers

Alex Stalock

Antti Niemi

Scratched: Barclay Goodrow, Scott Hannan, John Scott

Injured: Mike Brown (hand), Raffi Torres (knee)

STARS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves

Curtis McKenzie - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Vernon Fiddler - Ryan Garbutt

Erik Cole - Shawn Horcoff - Colton Sceviour

Brenden Dillon - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Alex Goligoski

Kevin Connauton - Sergei Gonchar

Anders Lindback

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak

Injured: Cody Eakin (upper body), Patrik Nemeth (right arm laceration), Valeri Nichushkin (hip/groin)

Status report: Brown, who has missed the past 12 games with a hand injury, has been skating on his own and making progress, but McLellan said he’s not expected to return for a while. … Eakin, a late scratch against Nashville, will miss a second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Ruff said Nichushkin will have the next few days off before being re-evaluated.

Who's hot: Daley has five goals, tying him for the lead among NHL defensemen.

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