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Lehtonen returns for Stars, while Oilers get Hall back

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- When the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars hit the ice Thursday night at American Airlines Center, each team will have key members back in the fold.

Edmonton will have first-line wing Taylor Hall for the first time after he served a two-game suspension for kneeing Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild, and no one could be happier than Oilers coach Ralph Krueger.

"Well, he adds an amazing amount of pressure on the opposition's defense and on their defensive structure," Krueger said of Hall. "To have [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins], [Jordan Eberle] and [Hall] back together gives us a real weapon here. We're very pleased to have Taylor's speed and offensive pressure back."

Hall is equally pleased to be returning to the ice in game two of what is a nine-game road trip for the Oilers.

"Yeah, it was the first time I've been suspended. It's a weird feeling, being out of a game when you're not hurt. Being healthy and not being able to play is something I'm not used to," he said. "It was good, though. I feel a little bit more rested, was able to get a couple more workouts in. That's a little bit tougher when you're playing games all the time."

Wing Erik Cole, who was acquired in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday for forward Michael Ryder, will make his Stars debut. Thursday also will mark the return of Kari Lehtonen to the Dallas net after he missed the past five games with a groin injury.

Cole most likely will be paired alongside youngsters Cody Eakin and Reilly Smith on Dallas' third line, a combination that intrigues Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.

"Well, I think there's a dynamic there. Erik is a real good skater. He's heavy. He goes to the net hard. He likes to drag wide with pucks, kind of a big, physical guy," Gulutzan said. "So he's got some speed, so [do] those other two guys [Eakin and Smith]."

The Stars will get back their No. 1 goaltender, Lehtonen, who is 7-2-1 with a 2.12 goals-against-average. The Finnish-born netminder's prior start came Feb. 15 at the Vancouver Canucks when he had to leave the ice early in the opening period with a groin injury.

"We haven't had a full practice with Kari, but we've had the luxury that [goaltending coach] Mike Valley's been with us here for the last week," Gulutzan said. "[Lehtonen] had some pregame skates, shots and some workouts with guys, so he looks good and ready to go."

However, one thing that won't change for Dallas, at least for Thursday, is that Antoine Roussel, who skated on the Stars' second line in Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, will return to that role against the Oilers.

"He's worked real, real hard and he adds pace and he allows them to have a better forecheck, that line," Gulutzan said. "You get an honest effort out of [Roussel] every day. You get an honest 100 percent, and I don't expect anything different tonight."

The Stars have taken the first two meetings of the season against Edmonton, winning twice at Rexall Place. But even though the club has historically had its share of success against the Oilers in Dallas, Gulutzan isn't about to take Thursday's foe lightly.

"We know the dangers of this team and how good they are. We've got to be prepared. Look at their specialty teams. We talked about all that stuff," Gulutzan said.

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