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At the Rink: Stars at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Opposites will attract when the Dallas Stars play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena.

The Stars (27-7-3) have 57 points to lead the NHL and are 4-0-1 in their past five games. Columbus' 29 points are the fewest in the League and the Blue Jackets (12-22-3) have lost three straight and have two wins in 10 games.

Returning after a three-game absence from a lower body injury will be first-year captain Nick Foligno, among those who had their leadership skills questioned by coach John Tortorella.

"I have a belief in myself and in the leadership group in here that may be a little bit different than what they're thinking, but the results are what they are," Foligno said after the morning skate.

"Obviously we need to be better. It's about going about it the right way and not getting down on yourself and understanding the values and the things you can bring. I'm just trying to get better and learn every day."

The added responsibility of wearing the "C" this season may be taking a toll on Foligno, who has five goals in 35 games after a career-high 31 last season.

He is one of many underachievers Tortorella is trying to figure out since he replaced Todd Richards on Oct. 21.

Another is Ryan Johansen (6-18-24). The 2015 NHL All-Star Game MVP was benched for the third period against Dallas in a 5-1 loss on Dec. 15. Tortorella made him a healthy scratch the next game and Johansen sat the final 10 minutes against the Florida Panthers on Sunday.

Monday, Johansen was on the fourth line in practice, but that is subject to change with Foligno replacing David Clarkson.

Tortorella blames himself in part for not getting more from Johansen.

"I have to take a little responsibility there," Tortorella said, "and not just with Ryan, but with a number of players I don't think I've done a good enough job of developing them and trying to get them to be the best they can be."

While lack of confidence is not a factor for the Stars, overconfidence could be against the struggling Blue Jackets. But Stars left wing Patrick Sharp remembers the poor first period the Stars played against Columbus two weeks ago.

"That was the game we won and the coach wasn't very happy after the game with the way we played," he said. "That's a sign of good coaching, good team.

"We've got guys in the room who've been around long enough to know you've got to respect every opponent you're playing no matter what the standings say."

Dallas coach Lindy Ruff likes the way the Stars are playing, especially on defense.

"Our leadership is responsible for that," he said. "I have to give them a lot of credit because there's times maybe you'd like to take the extra chance and they've made the right decisions."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinColton Sceviour

Travis Moen - Vernon FiddlerValeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski -John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Scratched: Patrick Eaves, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth

Injured: None


Boone Jenner- Brandon Dubinsky- Cam Atkinson

Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg- Brandon Saad

Nick FolignoRyan Johansen - Rene Bourque

Matt Calvert - William Karlsson - Gregory Campbell

Jack Johnson - Ryan Murray

Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout

Justin FalkKevin Connauton

Curtis McElhinney

Joonas Korpisalo

Injured: Cody Goloubef (broken jaw), Markus Hannikainen (shoulder), Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), David Savard (lower body)

Scratched: David Clarkson, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Jared Boll

Status report: Tortorella said Bobrovsky and Savard are day-to-day. Bobrovsky has missed nine games; Savard five.

Who's hot: Sharp and Benn each have three goals and five assists during five-game point streaks. … Wennberg's nine assists this season have come in the past 11 contests (2-9-11). Hartnell has 5-6-11 in the past 11 games and Saad has 3-5-8 in the past five. … The Stars have allowed 15 goals in their past nine games (1.67 average).

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