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Hitchcock shakes up Stars' lineup entering tilt at Wild

Elie and Smith will check back in as Dallas looks to gain ground in the playoff race

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars will look to keep their playoff hopes alive when they kick off a home-and-home series against the Minnesota Wild tonight at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

As it stands now, the Stars, who are five points out of the final playoff spot with five games remaining, need to win out and get some help if they are going to have a chance to get into the postseason tournament. They got some life with Tuesday's win over Philadelphia that snapped an eight-game losing streak, and they've received some help with Anaheim and Colorado losing the last two nights.

But it will fall on their shoulders to get a win in Minnesota tonight.


[GAME DAY CENTRAL: What to watch for as Stars hit road to face Minnesota]


"I think we're feeling pretty good about ourselves in terms of the way the last game went," said Stars defenseman Marc Methot. "It was kind of weird and at times looked like pond hockey, but a win is a win, and there are so few games you'll take anything you can get at this time of season. In this situation, we know there is a back-to-back against this group; it will be tough, but it is a good challenge. At least we are playing for something this time of year, giving ourselves a chance to get a foot in the door."

Video: Stars looking to stay alive on the road against Wild

As promised, Stars coach Ken Hitchcock made some adjustments to his lineup for tonight's game. Forwards Remi Elie and Gemel Smith, who were both scratches Tuesday, will draw back into tonight. Hitchcock, as expected, is also juggling his lines. The top trio of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov stays together, but Mattias Janmark is expected to move onto the left wing with center Radek Faksa and right wing Tyler Pitlick. Devin Shore will center Elie and Brett Ritchie. Jason Spezza will have Antoine Roussel and Smith on his wings.

"It's a four-line team we are playing. They get a lot of mileage out of their bottom two lines, so we are going to have to get a lot of mileage out of four lines," Hitchcock said. "This gives us the best opportunity right now, I think, for our team to see what we can do. They have good balance, and we're going to have to provide good balance here."

Hitchcock will go with six defensemen tonight after using seven in Tuesday's win over Philadelphia, and the pairs will be familiar with Esa Lindell-John Klingberg, Dan Hamhuis-Greg Pateryn, and Methot-Stephen Johns.

Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal tonight. It appears that Julius Honka, Curtis McKenzie, Jason Dickinson, and Dillon Heatherington will sit as healthy scratches.

Wild Watch

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal tonight for the Wild. Dubnyk is 32-14-7 with a 2.57 goals against average and .917 save percentage. The Wild (42-24-10) have lost three of their last four, but all three losses have come in overtime or a shootout. Minnesota, which is riding a six-game points streak (3-0-3) is in third place in the Central Division and has a three-point lead over fourth-place St. Louis.

Video: Parise previews tilt with Dallas


Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild
Where: Xcel Energy Center
When: 7 p.m.
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM


Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Remi Elie - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Gemel Smith

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Marc Methot - Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen
Mike McKenna

Scratched: Julius Honka, Curtis McKenzie, Jason Dickinson, Dillon Heatherington
Injured: Ben Bishop (knee), Martin Hanzal (back)


Wild Projected Lineup

Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Nino Niederreiter
Jordan Greenway - Matt Cullen - Charlie Coyle
Daniel Winnik - Joel Eriksson Ek - Marcus Foligno

Ryan Suter - Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin - Ryan Murphy
Gustav Olofsson - Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk
Alex Stalock

Scratched: Nick Seeler, Tyler Ennis
Injured: Luke Kunin (knee), Jared Spurgeon (hamstring)

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 him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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