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Big Points at Stake as Stars Take on Coyotes

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars have three games remaining before the Olympic break and two of them come against the Phoenix Coyotes, a team three points ahead of them in the standings.

The Stars and Coyotes both are on the outside looking in at a playoff spot coming into tonight’s matchup in Glendale, Arizona, but both are knocking on the door. The Stars are four points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference and the Coyotes are just one point back. Tonight’s game is a big one for both teams. The two games against each other this week are big.

“We can set up ourselves nicely if we play well tonight,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We only worry about the one game right now. We know we’ve got them two of the next three. They’re saying the exact same thing. I would think it would make for real good games.”

“It’s pretty obvious when you look at the standings,” said Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski. “These are four point games.”

The Stars are making a couple of lineup changes from Saturday’s 2-0 win in Anaheim. Kari Lehtonen will be back in goal for tonight’s game. Aaron Rome will slot in on defense and Kevin Connauton will be a healthy scratch. The forward lines will remain the same.

Mike Smith will get the start in goal for the Coyotes.

Ribeiro to see Stars for first time since trade

Tonight’s game will mark the first time that Mike Ribeiro will face the Stars since the June 2012 trade that sent him from Dallas to Washington in exchange for Cody Eakin and a second round pick in 2012. Ribeiro signed with Phoenix as an unrestricted free agent last summer.

“It will be nice. It’s always fun to play against your old team and two years later I have a chance to do it,” Ribeiro said. “It’s going to be interesting to play against your old teammates. I think it is going to be a fun night.”

Ribeiro leads the Coyotes in scoring with 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 55 games. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett, who coached Ribeiro several seasons in Dallas, said the skilled center has been a solid player for the Coyotes.

“It’s been pretty good. There have been a couple stretches where it has been excellent and a couple of down stretches. When you balance it all out he’s been solid,” Tippett said. “He comes into the game as our leading the scorer. The places that we needed help were the offensive side of the game and the power play. He’s the kind of player that he’ll be around the game, you won’t notice him much, but when we need a key play made at a key time, he as the ability to make those plays. Since we lost [Ray] Whitney a couple years ago, we haven’t had a player like that.”

Ribeiro played 461 games for the Stars from 2006 to 2012, registering 407 points (123 goals, 284 assists).

Tuesday’s game

Who: Dallas Stars at Phoenix Coyotes
Where: Arena, Glendale, AZ
When: 8 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinValeri Nichushkin
Erik ColeCody EakinRich Peverley
Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerRyan Garbutt
Ray WhitneyShawn HorcoffAlex Chiasson

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley
Jordie BennBrenden Dillon
Aaron RomeSergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen
Dan Ellis

Coyotes projected lineup

Lauri Korpikoski –Antoine Vermette – Mikkel Boedker
Shane Doan –Martin Hanzal – Radim Vrbata
Rob Klinkhammer – Mike Ribeiro – David Moss
Paul Bissonnette – Kyle Chipchura – Jeff Halpern

Keith Yandle – Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Zbynek Michalek
David Schlemko – Connor Murphy

Mike Smith

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

Thomas Greiss

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