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Preview: Panthers at Stars

Patrick Sharp returns for Dallas after missing 26 games with concussion-like symptoms; Reilly Smith back in lineup for Florida

by Sean Shapiro / NHL.com Correspondent

PANTHERS (15-14-8) at STARS (16-14-7)

8 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-F, NHL.TV 

 

Panthers team scope

The Florida Panthers will try to end a four-game losing streak (0-1-3) after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. "We aren't getting down on ourselves or anything like that," defenseman Keith Yandle said. "We've been playing better than the results have shown, and I think we've been happy with the majority of our game." Goaltender James Reimer will make back-to-back starts after he had 38 saves against the Canadiens. Forward Reilly Smith will return to the lineup after missing two games because of an upper-body injury. Forward Colton Sceviour injured his shoulder against the Canadiens and didn't make the trip to Dallas. "Very, very minor," coach Tom Rowe said. "He could have played, but we'd rather have a healthy body here than forcing him in." Forward Greg McKegg will play after being recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League on Friday. 

 

Stars team scope

Forward Patrick Sharp will return to the Dallas Stars lineup after missing 12 consecutive games and 26 games overall with concussion-like symptoms. "It's always difficult when you are out of the lineup for any period of time," Sharp said. "Let alone three, four weeks, so it's always tough that first shift. Probably a little more anxious than you need to be." Sharp, who has one goal and one assist in 11 games this season, was injured Oct. 20 against the Los Angeles Kings. He returned a month later, but his symptoms returned after seven games and forced him out of the lineup. Forward Adam Cracknell likely will be a healthy scratch. Forwards Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza have combined for 14 points during a three-game winning streak since they were reunited on a line against the Kings on Dec. 23. "I think we're just playing with the lead more and it's forcing teams to take chances," Spezza said. "We've played together as a line in the past. I think it's just been a matter of burying some of our chances. We've been forcing teams to open up and that's when we really hurt teams." Goaltender Antti Niemi will start after Kari Lehtonen played the past three games. Niemi is 7-2-2 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .936 save percentage at home this season.

 

Panthers projected lineup

Seth Griffith -- Nick Bjugstad -- Jaromir Jagr

Jonathan Marchessault -- Vincent Trocheck -- Reilly Smith

Jussi Jokinen -- Michael Sgarbossa -- Denis Malgin

Greg McKegg -- Derek MacKenzie -- Shawn Thornton

Keith Yandle -- Aaron Ekblad

Jakub Kindl -- Jason Demers

Michael Matheson -- Mark Pysyk

James Reimer

Roberto Luongo

Scratched: Paul Thompson

Injured: Aleksander Barkov (lower body), Jonathan Huberdeau (lower leg), Alex Petrovic (ankle), Colton Sceviour (shoulder)

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn -- Tyler Seguin -- Jason Spezza

Curtis McKenzie -- Radek Faksa -- Brett Ritchie

Lauri Korpikoski -- Devin Shore -- Patrick Eaves

Jiri Hudler -- Cody Eakin -- Patrick Sharp

Esa Lindell -- John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya -- Jordie Benn

Dan Hamhuis -- Jamie Oleksiak

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Stephen Johns, Adam Cracknell

Injured: Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip), Antoine Roussel (upper body)

 

Status report

The Panthers sent center Kyle Rau to Springfield on Friday. ... Roussel took part in the optional morning skate and is getting closer to returning. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Johns is ready to play but has been out of the lineup since sustaining a lower-body injury Dec. 20 against the St. Louis Blues. 

 

Who's hot

Trocheck has two goals and one assist in his past two games. ... Spezza has seven points (two goals, five assists) during a four-game point streak. Jamie Benn has five points (four goals, one assist) during a three-game point streak and 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in his past 10 games. Seguin has five points (three goals, two assists) during a three-game point streak.

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