Stars look to continue strong run post-Olympicsby Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- Before a 19-day break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Dallas Stars were on a good run, going 6-1-2 over their final nine games. Dallas returns to the ice Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes at American Airlines Center and Lindy Ruff's club is looking to continue that run in their final game of February.
"Yeah, I said the only disappointment this morning is we've got to wait until tonight to play," Ruff said after the morning skate. "It's great to be back. The guys sense the importance of these coming games and they've worked hard the past seven, eight days to be ready."
Ruff is keeping his forward lines and defensive pairings the same from a 2-1 win against the Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 8 in Dallas' final game before the break. Kari Lehtonen will start his fourth consecutive game in goal for the Stars.
Dallas (27-21-10, 64 points) currently sits ninth in the Western Conference, just one point behind the Vancouver Canucks, who currently hold the final wild-card spot with 65 points. The Stars host the Canucks next Thursday in the finale of a three-game homestand.
Carolina, which lost 3-2 at the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, is on the second of a five-game road trip. Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller had no issue with how his team played against the Sabres two nights ago, other than the game's outcome.
"Yeah, I just told the guys, 'Listen we play that way the results are going to be different on a consistent basis.' I thought we had a good, solid 60 minutes," Muller said. "We generated enough offense, 23, 24 scoring chances and we didn't give up much, so the result wasn't there but we said if we play the right way, play that type of game over time, we'll get different results."
Muller is making one change to his fourth line with Elias Lindholm coming in for Radek Dvorak. Carolina's defensive pairings will remain the same from the loss Tuesday.
"[Lindholm] has been playing well," Muller said. "He gives us a little more flexibility that he can play center. He can play the right wing. He can play power play. He can kill penalties for a young guy."
Anton Khudobin will start in goal for Carolina, his first start since before the break. However, Muller doesn't sound concerned about rust.
"He looks sharp. He's had lots of practice time and everything, so I've got a lot of confidence that he can step in tonight and play well," Muller said.
Here are the projected lines for the Hurricanes and Stars:
Jiri Tlusty – Eric Staal – Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe – Jordan Staal – Patrick Dwyer
Jeff Skinner – Riley Nash – Tuomo Ruutu
Drayson Bowman – Manny Malhotra – Elias Lindholm
John-Michael Liles – Ron Hainsey
Brett Bellemore – Jay Harrison
Scratched: Radek Dvorak, Mike Komisarek
Injured: Joni Pitkanen (broken left heel)
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Erik Cole - Cody Eakin – Rich Peverley
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Ray Whitney - Shawn Horcoff – Alex Chiasson
Kevin Connauton - Sergei Gonchar
Scratched: Aaron Rome
Injured: Stephane Robidas (leg)