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Stars continue to cope with injuries

Right wing Jiri Hudler practices, but won't play Thursday; center Jason Spezza doubtful

by Sean Shapiro / Correspondent

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Stars right wing Jiri Hudler returned to practice Wednesday but will miss his fourth straight game when the Stars play the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, FS-SW, NHL.TV).

Hudler hasn't played since Oct. 15 because of an illness. He first skated on his own Monday and then practiced Wednesday, but coach Lindy Ruff said the Stars have to be patient with his return to the lineup.

"This is his first full practice," Ruff said. "In my eyes he's going to need today, tomorrow, Friday. And then a hard evaluation for Saturday on my part, whether he can match the game intensity and the speed of the game to be effective. I'm not going to put him unless I think he's ready."

Center Jason Spezza didn't practice after missing the game against the Jets on Tuesday because of a lower-body injury. Spezza was injured Oct. 22 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and aggravated it during practice Monday.

"Not being out here today is a sign that he is doubtful for tomorrow," Ruff said. "I was hopeful he'd be able to practice; he wasn't able to. Another day of rest may help."

Video: LAK@DAL: Spezza rips a wrister to even game in 3rd

If Spezza is out, the Stars likely will use the same forward group they used Tuesday, meaning American Hockey League call-ups Justin Dowling and Gemel Smith will stay in the lineup.

Stars captain Jamie Benn also didn't practice Wednesday and hasn't for the past week. Ruff classified it as a maintenance day for Benn, but admitted the left wing is dealing with some ailment while still playing games.

"It's been hard on Jamie because he hasn't practiced enough," Ruff said. "He hasn't practiced now in a week and that shows up in the performance. It's a balancing act for him. We don't want to aggravate what he's got going on."

Ruff didn't clarify a specific injury, but said it could be related to Benn's past hip or core muscle surgeries.

Video: LAK@DAL: Benn goes top shelf for power-play goal

"It can be groin, it can be hip. It's nothing serious," Ruff said. "It's related that you've missed all training camp. You get in high-intensity game situations and you torque it more than you would do in any practice."

Forward Patrick Sharp still hasn't skated or exercised after sustaining a concussion against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 20. Sharp went on the ice after practice Wednesday, shooting pucks wearing shoes.

Forward Cody Eakin has started skating after injuring his knee Sept. 23 during training camp. At the time of the injury it was expected Eakin would need six weeks to recover but Ruff said there isn't a timetable for Eakin's return and that he is still "a ways away."

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