Stars forward Erik Cole, who has missed the last seven games with an upper body injury, skated on a line at this morning’s skate in Tampa, but whether he’ll play tonight against the Lightning will be decided later today.
“We are going to give him a game-time decision,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He said this morning that he was feeling pretty good. We’ll have an extra skate [in warm ups] and if he can go we’ll put him in.”
Cole hasn’t played since the March 20 game in Philadelphia and was off the ice until earlier this week.
“It’s gotten increasingly better each day and I’ve been able to handle more of a workload, so just keep on pushing, see if I can respond to certain things and get back in the lineup,” Cole said.
Cole played through injuries early in the season and got off to a slow start, but he got on a roll in December and is currently tied for third on the team in goal scoring with 16.
“There were times when he really dominated play, really skated well for us and physically he is a tough guy to handle down low,” Ruff said. “He gives us another guy that has been an important piece for us.”
The veteran forward skated on the left wing on a line with Dustin Jeffrey and Alex Chiasson in the morning skate, taking the place of Ray Whitney, who is out tonight with a lower body injury.
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars, so it appears he will be in goal tonight. The rest of the Stars lineup should look the same as the last game. Kevin Connauton is expected to be the scratch on defense. Aaron Rome (lower body) will be out as well. Chris Mueller, called up from the AHL, is the insurance policy if Cole can’t play.
The Stars come into tonight’s game one point behind Phoenix in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they have two games in hand.
Ben Bishop will start in goal for Tampa Bay, which is two points behind Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
“Try not to pass to them. It’s never a good idea to pass to them. Pass to us and we’ll be OK.”
- Tampa Bay associate coach Rick Bowness on what the Lightning can do better to avoid the slow start they had in Thursday’s loss to Calgary.
Who: Dallas Stars at Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum
When 6:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus (Channel guide)
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Erik Cole – Dustin Jeffrey – Alex Chiasson
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Patrik Nemeth – Sergei Gonchar
Lightning projected lineup
J.T. Brown - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ondrej Palat - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan
Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson –Tom Pyatt
Victor Hedman - Sami Salo
Matthew Carle - Radko Gudas
Eric Brewer –Andrej Sustr