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Changes at Forward, Lehtonen in Goal as Stars Face Blackhawks

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

It looks as if Stars coach Lindy Ruff will make a few adjustments to his lineup as the Stars take on the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at American Airlines Center.

Patrick Eaves, who was a scratch the last game, appears to be back in tonight. He skated on the second line with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky at this morning’s skate. Ryan Garbutt is expected to be scratched for a fourth time in five games.

With Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie playing well right now, Ruff said some of the Stars other forwards are going to have to produce to stay in the lineup. Garbutt has no goals in his past 32 games. Eaves has one empty-net goal in his past eight games.

“Right now as a group we’re going pretty good. We’ve got possibly 14 forwards that could go in there. I think the tough decision now is we’ve got two young kids that have played well for us, and that makes it hard on some guys that are staples in the lineup,” Ruff said. “I think to create a sense of accountability, if there’s no production there are going to be some guys coming out of the lineup. What I told Patty was we’ve had one empty-net goal in the last eight games. I need more than that. With [Garbutt], I’ve told him the same thing. We need more production.”

Ruff also tweaked his lines at this morning’s skate. Antoine Roussel, who had been on the second line, skated on a line with Vernon Fiddler and Colton Sceviour. The top line remained intact with Cody Eakin centering Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. McKenzie and Ritchie continue to line up with Shawn Horcoff.

Defense pairs remained the same as the last game, including the pairing of Patrick Nemeth and John Klingberg.

Kari Lehtonen will make his sixth straight start in goal. Lehtonen has had his ups and downs this season, but he is 9-2-2 in his past 13 decisions. Over his past five starts, Lehtonen is 4-1-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

“We’re getting less of those tough goals going in and we’re getting some big saves at key opportunities for us,” Ruff said. “When the opposition has that opportunity to maybe get back in the game, we’ve been getting that big save. And at the same time, some of the tough ones haven’t been going in, and that helps the numbers.”

Blackhawks watch

Corey Crawford gets the start in goal tonight for Chicago. Crawford is 6-0-1 in his past seven starts with a 1.13 goals-against average and .964 save percentage. Chicago has won four straight and has points in seven straight (6-0-1). That run has helped pull them within four points of St. Louis for first place in the Central Division.

“We seem to be getting a lot better in a lot of ways the last handful of games,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “We want to continue building off that and regardless of the standings improve and work our way into being the team that we want to be going into the playoffs. That’s number one. We know what our potential is as far as taking over the division or at giving us a chance to. We’ll keep climbing any way we can. If we take care of one, it will take care of the other.”

Saturday’s game

Who: Chicago Blackhawks at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennCody EakinTyler Seguin
Patrick EavesJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzieShawn HorcoffBrett Ritchie

Jyrki JokipakkaAlex Goligoski
Patrik NemethJohn Klingberg
Jordie Benn
Jason Demers

Kari Lehtonen
Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: Ryan Garbutt

Injured: Trevor Daley (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)

Blackhawks projected lineup

Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad – Antoine Vermette – Teuvo Teravainen
Bryan Bickell – Brad Richards – Kris Versteeg
Joakim Nordstrom – Marcus Kruger – Andrew Shaw

Kimmo Timonen – Brent Seabrook
Duncan Keith – Michal Rozsival
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson

Corey Crawford
Scott Darling

Injured: Patrick Kane (clavicle)

Scratched: Daniel Carcillo, Andrew Desjardins, David Rundblad

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.

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