LIGHTNING (40-25-5) AT STARS (41-21-9)
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET; FS-FL, FS-SW, NHL.TV
DALLAS -- Patrick Sharp will return to the ice for the Dallas Stars against the Tampa Bay Lightning at American Airlines Center on Thursday.
Sharp, who is third on the Stars with 30 assists and fifth with 47 points, missed the past six games because of a lower-body injury sustained at the Nashville Predators on March 1.
Sharp likely will skate at right wing on the fourth line alongside center Vernon Fiddler and left wing Colton Sceviour.
"I feel good," Sharp said. "I feel great. Had another good practice today and the body feels really good."
The Stars will wait at least one more game before re-inserting defenseman John Klingberg into the lineup. He'll miss his sixth straight game because of a lower-body injury.
"I think they [Jordie Benn and Klingberg] are really close," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I was hoping for Klingberg to play tonight but he's not quite there."
Besides Sharp coming in on the fourth line, Ruff said he'll use the same forward combinations from the 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
The defense pairs were changed at practice Wednesday, with Patrik Nemeth joining Alex Goligoski on the top pair. Johnny Oduya was with rookie Stephen Johns, and Kris Russell skated with Jamie Oleksiak.
Goalie Kari Lehtonen was first off the ice after the morning skate Thursday and will start his second consecutive game. Lehtonen was pulled 1:07 into the second period Tuesday after allowing four goals on 11 shots.
The Lightning held an optional morning skate Thursday. Coach Jon Cooper said goalie Ben Bishop will start in goal.
Cooper said center Cedric Paquette would be a game-time decision. He has missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury but skated Thursday morning.
"I guess that's a morning-skate decision but may move on to a game-time decision … so that's how that is," Cooper said.
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Ryan Callahan
J.T. Brown - Brian Boyle - Mike Blunden
Erik Condra - Vladislav Namestnikov - Jonathan Marchessault
Anton Stralman - Victor Hedman
Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr
Matthew Carle - Braydon Coburn
Injured: Valtteri Filppula (upper body), Cedric Paquette (lower body)
Scratched: Nikita Nesterov
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Valeri Nichushkin - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour - Vernon Fiddler - Patrick Sharp
Patrik Nemeth - Alex Goligoski
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Kris Russell - Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Jordie Benn (lower body), Jason Demers (shoulder), Mattias Janmark (upper body), John Klingberg (lower body)
Scratched: Travis Moen, Brett Ritchie.
Status report: The Lightning could use seven defensemen, something they've done the past two games. If Cooper opts for that alignment, Nesterov would play and it's likely Condra would come out of the lineup. … Ritchie, who was recalled from Texas of the American Hockey League on March 3, likely will be a healthy scratch for the second time in seven games. … Moen will be a healthy scratch for the seventh time in the past nine games.
Who's hot: Stamkos has seven goals and 11 points in eight games against the Stars. … Eakin has three goals and one assist in his past four games. … Goligoski has points in three straight games and in seven of his past eight.