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Stars, minus Klingberg, visit Senators

High-scoring defenseman out with lower-body injury

by Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Contributor

STARS (39-20-7) at SENATORS (31-28-7)

TV: 5 p.m. ET, FS-SW, RDS, TSN5, NHL.TV

OTTAWA - The struggling Dallas Stars, who are competing with the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the Central Division, will try to win two games in a row for the first time in three weeks against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday.

The Stars ended a four-game losing streak Friday with a 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils. Dallas is 2-5-2 in their past nine games and has been outscored 37-26 in that stretch.

"We've played some good games where maybe a few goals got away from us," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Ruff said he was encouraged by the Stars defensive play against the Devils. The Stars gave up 20 shots on goal, the fewest they've allowed in a game since they gave up 15 against Colorado Avalanche Jan. 23.

With forwards Patrick Eaves (illness) and Patrick Sharp (lower body) still out, Ruff said Brett Ritchie, 22, who played his first game of the season against the Devils, will continue to get some time on the top line Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin against the Senators.

"I like the way he played. I thought he played a heck of a game," Ruff said of Ritchie, who had three shots and was -1 in 11:16 against the Devils.

The Stars are in second place in the Central Division and the Western Conference. The Stars and Blackhawks each have 85 points, but the Blackhawks have more regulation and overtime wins.

The Senators defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Saturday to end a two-game losing streak. They are 6-2-1 in their past nine games.

Senators leading goal scorer Mike Hoffman was benched for the third period. Coach Dave Cameron said Hoffman was passed over because other players, like Scott Gomez and Ryan Dzingel, "upped their games."

"It's performance based now, right? You always make your decisions based on that game. When Mike plays fast, he's effective," Cameron said. "A lot of times when you bench a guy, it's not so much what they're doing, other guys are on their game. I thought we had some guys last night. When we swapped the lines around I thought it brought some energy. When you do that, usually someone drops down and that's the competition in the National Hockey League. You've got to earn it.

"It's about winning the game. It's as simple as that. It's about winning the game. Every decision we make from the time we show up here early in the morning until we finish the game it's all about trying to do what's right."

With No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson still out with a knee injury, Andrew Hammond will start in goal for the Senators.

Ruff would not say who will start in goal against the Senators but after goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves for the Stars in the win against the Devils, Antti Niemi is likely to play.

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie

Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin

Antoine Roussel - Cody Easkin - Ales Hemsky

Radek Faksa - Vernon Fiddler - Colton Sceviour

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers

Kris Russell - Alex Goligoski

Patrik Nemeth - Jamie Oleksiak

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Travis Moen.

Injured: Patrick Eaves (illness), Patrick Sharp (lower body), Jordie Benn (lower body), John Klingberg (lower body).

SENATORS

Mike Hoffman - Mika Zibanejad - Bobby Ryan

Zack Smith - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Mark Stone

Ryan Dzingel - Scott Gomez - Alex Chiasson

Nick Paul - Curtis Lazar - Chris Neil

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf - Cody Ceci

Michael Kostka - Chris Wideman

Andrew Hammond

Chris Driedger

Scratched: Matt Puempel, Patrick Wiercioch.

Injured: Mark Borowiecki (knee), Kyle Turris (ankle), Craig Anderson (lower body), Chris Phillips (back), Clarke MacArthur (concussion)

Status report: Klingberg was injured three minutes into the game Saturda and will not play. ...Sharp and Jordie Benn did not travel for the road trip. Ruff said there is a good chance Eaves will play against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Kostka will play his first game of the season.

Who's hot: Smith has two goals and two assists in his past four games … Fiddler has three goals and an assist in his past three games … Goligoski has four assists in his past three games … Spezza has two goals in his past two games.

Status report: Allen left practice early on Saturday and was on the ice briefly during morning skate but Hitchcock said he will start. ... Dubnyk made 30 saves against the Sabres on Saturday but could start because the Wild don't play again until Thursday.

Who's hot: Tarasenko's goal against Ottawa on Tuesday gave him 30 this season, his second-straight season with 30 goals. ... Koivu has goals in consecutive games and three in his past five giving him 15, one more than he had all of last season. With 16 games remaining, Koivu already has his highest goal total since he scored 17 in 2010-11.

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