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At the Rink: Stars at Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Former Dallas Stars first-round pick Radek Faksa will make his long-awaited NHL?debut Saturday night against the Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-SW). The 13th selection in the 2012 NHL?Draft, will also play against his idol, Jaromir Jagr.

"I'm looking forward to it,"???Faksa, who like Jagr is from the Czech Republic, said after morning skate. "I'm excited for that because Jagr is like basically my idol. He's like my hockey God. I'm very excited for that."

Faksa was recalled by the Stars on Friday after they placed forward Curtis McKenzie on injured reserve because of a lower-body injury. McKenzie was injured Thursday after taking a hit from behind from Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov, who was suspended two games for the hit.

Faksa had two goals in his only game with the Texas of the American Hockey League. He had 10 points in 32 games in the AHL???in 2014-15 before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury in January.

"I???thought during preseason he steadily got better,"???Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I???know he didn't play a lot of hockey last year, but he started a little bit slow. But I???thought as camp went on he got better and better for us. Good defensively. He was good killing penalties for us. Big body. Really played well in the first game [in the AHL]. He's excited. I'm excited to see him play."

Faksa will be joined in the lineup Saturday by Dallas' first-round pick in 2013, forward Valeri Nichushkin. He was a healthy scratch against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday and against the Lightning on Thursday.

Nichushkin is expected to play right wing on a line with Vernon Fiddler and Jason Spezza.

"I'd like to play him in his natural position," Ruff said. "To help Val get going, I???want to put him where he feels most comfortable. We'll give him a chance over there on the right side and see if that can help him out."

Dallas (3-1-0) is tied for first???in goals per game with the Colorado Avalanche at 3.75; Florida (3-1-0) ranks third in fewest goals allowed (1.25 per game).

"The goalies have been exceptional when you only allow five goals,"???Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We've played real well defensively. Anytime you give up five goals in four games, it's a team effort. We can always say the defense is playing good and the goaltending is playing good, but right now it's the group on the ice playing real well defensively."

With a victory against Dallas, Florida would have four win in its first five games for the second time in franchise history. It happened in 1995-96 when Florida made the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Colorado in four games.

A victory would also give the Panthers a three-game winning streak, which would match their longest streak of last season.

"We've got to keep stringing them together,"???defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "You never want to go two wins and then a loss. You really want to string them together early in the season and get off to that really hot start. The way that we're playing and the way we feel in this room, we feel we can do that. We've got a tough test tonight. It's a very high-powered offense. They've got a lot of skilled guys."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp

Vernon Fiddler - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin

Mattias Janmark - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth

Injured:?????????Travis Moen (upper body), Patrick Eaves (lower body), Curtis McKenzie (lower body)


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Brandon Pirri - Nick Bjugstad - Reilly Smith

Jussi Jokinen - Dave Bolland - Vincent Trocheck

Quinton Howden - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Erik Gudbranson

Dmitry Kulikov - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched:?????????Steven Kampfer, Connor Brickley, Dylan Olsen

Injured: None

Status report: Ruff said he had no update on the condition of McKenzie. "I?????????have no definitive timetable,"?????????Ruff said. "It's been a tough one to really get down to what exactly it's going to take to get him to feel better and what exactly is wrong. It might just take some time." ... Moen is day-to-day. ... Demers and Oleksiak have yet to play this season, but Ruff said he wants to get them in the lineup at some point during the Stars' four-game road trip, which concludes with games against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. ... Thornton will be in the lineup for Florida after being a healthy scratch in each of the past two games. "He's an important player on our hockey team," Gallant said.

Who's hot: Hemsky has had at least one assist in each of Dallas' four games. ... Jamie Benn has a point in every game. ... Jagr is tied for second in the NHL???????????????????????????with four goals, all of them coming in Florida's two games at BB&T???????????????????????????Center.

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