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Oilers interim coach Nelson to debut at home vs. Stars

by Derek Van Diest

STARS (13-13-5) at OILERS (7-20-6)


EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers interim coach Todd Nelson will make his home debut Sunday against the Dallas Stars.

Nelson took over for Dallas Eakins, who was fired Monday 113 games into a four-year contract. Nelson was promoted from the Oilers' American Hockey League affiliate in Oklahoma City for the remainder of the season. General manager Craig MacTavish has temporarily assumed a coaching role to help with the transition.

Nelson lost his first two games as coach at the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks, which extended the Oilers' losing streak to six games. Edmonton has lost 17 of their past 18 games.

With an early local start time (6 p.m., EST), neither team took part in a morning skate Sunday.

The Oilers recalled center Anton Lander from Oklahoma City, who will take Leon Draisaitl's place in the lineup. It's the first time Draisaitl, 19, will be a healthy scratch this season. Following practice Saturday, Nelson said Draisaitl will be back in the lineup for Edmonton's game against Arizona on Tuesday.

The Stars are on a three-game winning streak and will have forward Ryan Garbutt back from a three-game suspension for slew-footing Winnipeg Jets forward Dustin Byfuglien on Dec. 9.

Following an optional practice Saturday, Stars coach Lindy Ruff had not decided whether to insert Garbutt in the lineup against the Oilers. Garbutt's latest suspension was his second in less than a month. He was suspended for two games on Nov. 27 for a knee-on-knee hit on Oilers left wing Taylor Hall two days prior.

"We don't know yet, we're going to dress some extra guys for warm-up and we'll see," Ruff said prior to the game Sunday. "I love him [Garbutt] when he's playing, he's got great speed, he's a difference maker. Like I said the game before, he was probably our best player and then the next game he ended up being one of those guys who turned the game the other way and ended up getting suspended.

"For me, I've spent time, [general manager] Jim [Nill] and I have both talked to him. I even met with is dad, he and I played together. We talked about how important it is for him to realize that he can't afford any more of these, we need him on the ice playing. He's a valuable piece of this team and when he's playing well, I play him in every key situation."

Stars defenseman Jordie Benn will take the warm-up and may get in the lineup after missing the previous game with the flu. A number of Stars have come down with the virus.

"We've got three or four guys, a couple of new ones today, that we might have a couple of surprises after warm-up," Ruff said. "We're going to see how they make out, but now we have two or three other guys. It's not the mumps, it's just flu-like stuff."

Goaltender Viktor Fasth is expected to start for the Oilers. Goalie Kari Lehtonen will start for the Stars.

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Tyler Seguin

Curtis McKenzie - Jason Spezza - Erik Cole

Antoine Roussel - Travis Morin - Ales Hemsky

Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Colton Sceviour

Jamie Oleksiak - John Klingberg

Jyrki Jokipakka - Trevor Daley

Alex Goligoski - Jason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Travis Moen, Ryan Garbutt

Injured: Patrick Eaves (ankle), Patrik Nemeth (arm), Valeri Nichushkin (groin), Jordie Benn (illness)


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Teddy Purcell

David Perron - Boyd Gordon - Jordan Eberle

Nail Yakupov - Anton Lander - Tyler Pitlick

Matt Hendricks - Mark Arcobello - Steven Pinizzotto

Oscar Klefbom - Mark Fayne

Brad Hunt - Justin Schultz

Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Keith Aulie, Leon Draisaitl, Luke Gazdic

Injured: Benoit Pouliot (foot), Nikita Nikitin (back)

Status report: Hendricks wore a no-contact jersey at practice Saturday after blocking a shot in a 4-3 loss to the Sharks on Thursday, but is expected to play. Nikitin also practiced Saturday and is close to a return.

Who's hot: Gordon scored in his return from a back injury, which forced him to miss five games for Edmonton … Lehtonen has a 12-3-1 lifetime record against the Oilers.

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