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Denis Gurianov to make NHL debut tonight vs. Avs

2015 first-round pick excited and nervous about first game as a Dallas Star

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Denis Gurianov, Dallas' first-round pick in the 2015 Draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when the Stars close out the season against the Colorado Avalanche at American Airlines Center.

"I am very excited to be here," Gurianov said. "I am a little nervous, but that's OK. I am going to try to help the team."

The 19-year-old Russian is in his first season in North America. The speedy, skilled forward has spent the season with the Texas Stars of the AHL, where he has recorded 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 54 games. He also tallied seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games as Russia won the bronze medal at the World Junior Championship.

"It was a big adjustment for him coming over," said Stars GM Jim Nill. "He spent the summer here. His English is very good. He was very excited about going to Austin. He's played well. Like everybody else, he's had his ups and downs. Started a little bit slow, which we knew he would. It's a tough league for a young, junior player. His game got going around December, he went to the World Juniors and had a great tournament. He came back and has kept it going since. It's been a good year for him."

And tonight he'll make his NHL debut. His family and friends will be watching back home in Russia.

"I called my parents, my friends, and my girlfriend," Gurianov said. "They said congratulations. They are very happy for me."

Gurianov took part in this morning's optional skate at American Airlines Center. Kari Lehtonen did not skate, so the guess is he will be in goal. The Stars did not run lines, so it is not clear where Gurianov and Mark McNeill, who also was called up from the AHL, will fit into the lineup tonight.

The defense scratches are up in the air. Jamie Oleksiak and Stephen Johns were the last defensemen off the ice, but we'll have to wait until warm-ups to see who is in and who is out on the blue line.

Tonight's game wraps up the season for the Stars (33-37-11).

"The message is we need to play one more good game, one more good game for our fans," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We were disappointed with our last home game. Our home record has been good, and that last home game got away from us. It would be finishing the season the right way."

Video: Gurianov ready for NHL debut

Avalanche Watch

The Avalanche did not hold a skate this morning. There were just a few players on the ice. Goaltender Jeremy Smith did not skate, so the guess is he will get the start in goal. Tonight's game is the front end of a back-to-back for the Avalanche. They close out the regular season Sunday at St. Louis.

Tonight's Game

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

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Tyler Seguin - Denis Gurianov
Gemel Smith - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Jason Dickinson - Adam Cracknell - Mark McNeill

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Julius Honka
Patrik Nemeth - Greg Pateryn

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Stephen Johns
Injured: Brett Ritchie (charlie horse), Justin Dowling (concussion-like symptoms), Curtis McKenzie (eye), Ales Hemsky (hip), Antoine Roussel (hand), Patrick Sharp (hip), Jiri Hudler (groin), Mattias Janmark (knee).

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