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Stars will be without Spezza vs. Blackhawks

Center is week-to-week with upper-body injury

by Steve Hunt / NHL.com correspondent

BLACKHAWKS (35-16-4) at STARS (33-14-5)

TV: NHLN, WGN, FS-SW+

DALLAS -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he feels good about his team's depth at center even with veteran Jason Spezza sidelined with an upper-body injury against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday at American Airlines Center.

Spezza, who is tied for fourth on the team with 40 points (18 goals), was placed on injured reserve Friday and is considered week-to-week.

"I just think the group needs to step up in his absence," Ruff said. "We've got some flexibility in the middle with [Mattias] Janmark, [Radek] Faksa and [Cody] Eakin. There's a lot of options there and I thought last game the guys in the middle of the ice really played well for us."

Spezza, who had been centering the second line alongside Janmark on the left and Patrick Eaves on the right, sustained his injury in the first period of a 4-3 overtime win at the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

"Yeah, he can be out for a period of time," Ruff said. "Right now it looks like week-to-week, so it's going to be more than a few games."

With Spezza out, Janmark will now center the second line alongside Patrick Sharp and Valeri Nichushkin, who moves up from the fourth line. The third line of Antoine Roussel, Eakin and Ales Hemsky remains intact. 

Eaves moves to the top line, taking the spot previously held by Sharp, alongside Jamie Benn and center Tyler Seguin.  

On the fourth line, Vernon Fiddler moves from center to the left side while Radek Faksa, who was recalled from Texas of the American Hockey League on Friday, will center that line alongside Colton Sceviour, who missed the Colorado game because of an upper-body injury, returning to the left side. 

Ruff is keeping his defensive pairs intact from the win at Colorado.

Goalie Antti Niemi was first off the ice at morning skate and will start a sixth consecutive game.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is keeping his forward lines and defensive pairs unchanged from a 5-4 overtime win at the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

Chicago, which leads the Western Conference with 74 points and is three points ahead of Dallas in the Central Division, is 2-1-0 on its current road trip, which concludes Saturday.

Quenneville said he remembers Chicago's last trip to Dallas, a 4-0 loss on Dec. 22. Dallas led 1-0 after two periods but broke the game open with three goals in the third to head to the Christmas break on a winning note.

"We certainly had a tough third period. I thought we were fine for 40 minutes. Obviously giving up the first goal was a big turning point in that game," Quenneville said. "We know the importance and I think both teams will be ready for tonight."

Goalie Corey Crawford was first off the ice at morning skate and will start a fifth consecutive game.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLACKHAWKS

Andrew Shaw - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Andrew Desjardins - Phillip Danault - Teuvo Teravainen

Brandon Mashinter - Dennis Rasmussen - Richard Panik

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Erik Gustafsson - Brent Seabrook

Trevor van Riemsdyk - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Injured: Marcus Kruger (wrist)

Scratched: Rob Scuderi, Jiri Sekac, Viktor Svedberg

STARS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves

Patrick Sharp - Mattias Janmark - Valeri Nichushkin

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky

Vernon Fiddler - Radek Faksa - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers

Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi 

Kari Lehtonen

Injured: Jason Spezza (upper body)

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak

Status report: Scuderi will be a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game. Sekac and Svedberg will be scratched for a second consecutive game. … Jokipakka and Oleksiak are healthy scratches for a second straight game.

Who's hot: Keith has nine points (six assists) in his past 10 games against Dallas. … Anisimov has 11 road goals, second most on the Blackhawks. … Kane has 37 road points (21 assists) to lead the NHL. … Chicago is 21.4 percent on the power play on the road, eighth best in the League. … Dallas is 10-4-1 against the Central Division. … Seguin leads the Stars with eight goals against Central foes. … Jamie Benn has six points (four goals) in his past 10 divisional games.

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