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Stars back home to face challenge from Blues

by Steve Hunt / NHL.com

BLUES (3-3-1) at STARS (4-2-2)

TV: FS-MW, FS-SW

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues renew their Central Division rivalry Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.

And after the Stars lost 7-5 at the New York Islanders on Saturday night to split a two-game road trip, captain Jamie Benn is glad to be back on home ice, where Dallas is 3-2-0 this season.

"There already is a rivalry between us and St. Louis. We had some big games with them last year. We are just looking to get off to a good start here at home," Benn said.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff is keeping his lines intact from that loss at the Islanders, but Ruff made one change to his defensive pairs during the morning skate Tuesday.

Kevin Connauton, a healthy scratch for the past two games, returns on the third pairing alongside Jamie Oleksiak. That means rookie defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, who had a strong showing on the trip in his first two NHL games, leaves the lineup.

"Well, obviously I need him (Connauton) to play well in his own end," Ruff said. "That's first and foremost for any defenseman. We want to keep all the defensemen going and we feel like Kevin's a big part of that."

Goalie Kari Lehtonen was first off the ice and will start his seventh game for Dallas.

The Blues, who beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on Saturday at the Scottrade Center, got some good news on Tuesday morning as right wings Ryan Reaves and Vladimir Tarasenko now appear to be over the illness that slowed them earlier in the week and will be in the lineup on Tuesday.

Reaves will play on the right side of the fourth line alongside left wing Steve Ott and center Maxim Lapierre. Tarasenko will play on the right side of the third line, sharing ice with left wing Alexander Steen and center Jori Lehtera.

"It's nice to see that he (Reaves) is feeling normal again. Both him and Tarasenko had a couple of rough days, but they both feel good and good enough to play tonight," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after the morning skate.

Tuesday will also mark the Blues debut for defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who will play on the third defensive pairing alongside Barret Jackman. Gunnarsson, acquired in an offseason trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, had been slowed in the preseason and the early part of the regular season by a hip injury.

"Always a little bit nervous before every game, and that's the way it should be. Tonight is a little bit extra," Gunnarsson said. "Just going to be good to get a couple shifts in there tonight and hopefully that feels like normal."

Goalie Brian Elliott was first off the ice for the Blues and will start his sixth game of the season.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

T.J. OshieDavid BackesJaden Schwartz

Joakim Lindstrom - Patrik BerglundDmitrij Jaskin

Alexander SteenJori LehteraVladimir Tarasenko

Steve OttMaxim LapierreRyan Reaves

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Ian ColeKevin Shattenkirk

Barret JackmanCarl Gunnarsson

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Jordan Leopold, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Porter

Injured: Paul Stastny (wrist)

STARS

Jamie BennJason Spezza - Tyler Seguin

Patrick EavesVernon FiddlerAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt

Erik ColeShawn HorcoffColton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley

Jordie BennBrenden Dillon

Kevin ConnautonJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Curtis McKenzie

Injured: Sergei Gonchar (ankle), Patrik Nemeth (right arm laceration), Valeri Nichushkin (groin/hip)

Status report: Gonchar and Nichushkin each skated with the team for a second straight day, but there is not yet a timetable for their return. … Stastny will miss a fourth straight game due to a wrist injury.

Who's hot: In the win against Chicago on Saturday, Schwartz scored his fifth goal of the season, which leads the Blues and ties him for fifth in the NHL. … Jamie Benn is currently on a six-game point streak (five goals, five assists) for Dallas.

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