The Dallas Stars will have to do some lineup shuffling tonight due to injuries. Defenseman Trevor Daley and Brett Ritchie are both out with undisclosed injuries. Ritchie, who has been placed on injured reserve, will miss the three games leading up to the All-Star break.
Ales Hemsky, who missed Friday’s practice with an undisclosed injury, is available for tonight’s game, according to Stars coach Lindy Ruff. Center Vernon Fiddler will return to the lineup after missing two games with a lower body injury.
“The last pregame skate I felt it, but this pregame skate I didn’t even think about it,” Fiddler said. “I am glad I took that extra game and hopefully I’ll have a little extra energy and bring that for the guys tonight.”
Exactly what the lineup will look like tonight against Washington is unclear. The Stars had an optional skate this morning at American Airlines Center, and there were no line rushes or defense pairs.
On defense, the Stars have David Schlemko available to come back in to the lineup. They also called up Jyrki Jokipakka from Texas of the AHL this morning.
The return of Fiddler gives the Stars 12 forwards – assuming Hemsky plays - but the Stars called up Curtis McKenzie from the AHL as well.
Ruff wouldn’t say if McKenzie or Jokipakka would play tonight, but he didn’t close the door on the idea.
“There is a chance we may see one. It’s a possibility,” he said.
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice, so the guess is he will be in net after getting the night off on Thursday.
The Stars come into tonight’s game five points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have three games before the All-Star break, and the hope is to go into the break with a strong push.
“We have to find points, as many points as we can over this next stretch here,” said Fiddler. “Going into this break it would be nice to catch some ground, so when we get back from the break we are right in the mix.”
The Capitals played last night in Nashville, falling 4-3 to the Predators. Braden Holtby made his 21st consecutive start, but backup Justin Peters is the likely starter for tonight. Peters hasn’t started an NHL game since Nov. 29 but did get a couple of starts in the AHL last weekend.
Washington is 14-2-4 in its last 20 games. The Capitals haven’t fared well in the second games of back-to-backs, posting just a 1-5-1 mark so far this season.
“Our back to backs have been subpar, our record is dismal,” Washington forward Brooks Laich told media after last night’s game. “We need to get our rest tonight and tomorrow morning and have everyone be in to it right away. I think we have felt our way through the back-to-backs and have not been aggressive, and that is not where we play well. We play well when we are assertive early on and dictate the play, so we will have to do that early in the first period.”
Washington is 23-1-3 when scoring the first goal of the game and 1-11-5 when the opposition scores first.
Who: Washington Capitals 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 Benn – Tyler Seguin – Colton Sceviour
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
David Schlemko – Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Curtis McKenzie
Injured: Trevor Daley (undisclosed), Brett Ritchie (undisclosed), Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
Capitals projected lineup
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Andre Burakovsky
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich – Michael Latta – Joel Ward
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Jack Hillen – Mike Green
Scratched: Steve Oleksy.
Injured: John Erskine (neck), Eric Fehr (lower body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), Aaron Volpatti (neck).
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.