BLUE JACKETS (17-17-3) at STARS (18-14-6)
TV: FS-O, FS-SW
DALLAS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars have each recently been playing some great hockey, which makes the game at American Airlines Center on Tuesday between them a must-watch.
Columbus (17-17-3) is 11-2-1 over its past 14 games and the Blue Jackets will get a nice boost as right wing Cam Atkinson, who has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, and center Mark Letestu, out the past 28 games with a groin/abdominal issue, will both return against the Stars.
"What I'm expecting is those guys to come in and provide a spark; Cam with his speed and energy and Mark, the way he navigates and thinks his way through the game," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "They make our team better at both ends of the rink."
Atkinson will skate on the right side of the second line alongside left wing Matt Calvert and center Brandon Dubinsky. Letestu will center the fourth line, joining left wing Jeremy Morin and right wing Jared Boll.
Besides those changes, Richards is keeping his forward lines and defensive pairings intact from a 4-3 win at the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.
Tuesday will mark the 700th career game for Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin.
"It's big," Tyutin said. "Looking back, it seems like quite a few games. I've enjoyed the road down here and just try to keep going."
Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was first off the ice for Columbus after the morning skate and will start his 27th game of the season.
Dallas (18-14-6), who has won eight of its past 10 games, returns home after a 5-4 overtime loss at the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday for one game before heading out on a two-game road trip later this week.
The Stars have been much improved at home of late, going 8-2-1 in their past 11 games after starting the season 1-5-4 at home, a trend Stars coach Lindy Ruff attributes to a simple yet successful formula.
"I think we've done a lot of good things with the puck. We're taking care of our own end," Ruff said. "We're creating enough opportunities every night to score enough goals to win and we're defending well enough and keeping the chances against down. That will usually lead to winning hockey games."
Ruff is keeping his forward lines and defensive pairings intact from the Chicago game.
However, Ruff is giving backup goaltender Anders Lindback his first start since Nov. 29, when he allowed five goals on 47 shots in a 5-2 loss at the Avalanche.
Kari Lehtonen had started 12 consecutive games, including both ends of a back-to-back over the weekend, and Ruff felt his starting goaltender needed a rest.
Lindback has made one appearance, relieving Lehtonen in a 6-5 shootout win at the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 21, since being recalled from Texas of the American Hockey League on Dec. 14. He's ready to get back at it.
"I got some games (in the AHL) and I've been feeling really good," Lindback said. "The team has been playing really solid, so I am excited to get in there and help out."
Here are the projected lineups:
Scott Hartnell – Ryan Johansen – Nick Foligno
Matt Calvert – Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson
Sean Collins – Alexander Wennberg – Jack Skille
Jeremy Morin – Mark Letestu – Jared Boll
Jack Johnson – David Savard
Kevin Connauton – James Wisniewski
Cody Goloubef - Fedor Tyutin
Scratched: Jordan Leopold, Dalton Prout, Corey Tropp
Injured: Artem Anisimov (torn biceps), Brian Gibbons (knee), Nathan Horton (back), Boone Jenner (back), Ryan Murray (knee)
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Colton Sceviour
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler –Brett Ritchie
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: David Schlemko
Injured: Patrick Eaves (ankle), Shawn Horcoff (illness), Patrik Nemeth (arm), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)
Status report: Horcoff is over the illness which sidelined him for three games, but remains on injured reserve and will be scratched. … Schlemko, claimed off waivers from the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, has yet to make his Dallas debut and will be scratched for a second straight game. … Richards said Anisimov is still 2-3 weeks from returning.
Who's hot: Johansen is currently on a seven-game point streak (four assists). … Cole has five points (three goals) over his past two games and has points in four of his past five.