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Faksa returns to lineup tonight vs. Maple Leafs

Forward missed two games with injury; Lehtonen in goal as Stars resume play after break

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

After a few days off for the NHL All-Star break, the Dallas Stars resume play tonight when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at American Airlines Center.

The Stars (20-20-10) come out of the break three points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 32 games remaining.

"This would be a good time to go on a run," said Stars center Tyler Seguin. "I know we've been saying it all year, but we really haven't had a run yet this year. We've got to keep going forward after the last game against Buffalo (4-3 win before a break), that was a good game for us, and have a better one tonight against Toronto."

The Stars will get center Radek Faksa back in the lineup tonight. Faksa has missed the past two games due to a lower-body injury. Stars coach Lindy Ruff indicated that Faksa will center Devin Shore and Patrick Sharp.

"[Faksa] is a big man who is heavy on the puck. He plays against the best players and is one of our best defenders when it comes to playing in our own end," Ruff said. "The chemistry that he, Shore and Sharp have had has given us a really good look up there on the top three lines."

Jiri Hudler and Curtis McKenzie skated late this morning, so they appear to be the scratches at forward tonight. The Stars now have 14 healthy forwards, so Ruff will have decisions to make on a nightly basis.

"At times we can go with a little more skill, at times we can go with heavier bodies against teams we think are going to be more physical," Ruff said. "When we feel we need a little more creativity, we can go with a little more skill."

Video: Faksa back to face Maple Leafs

Patrik Nemeth skated late as well, so he is the expected scratch on defense. That means Julius Honka should be in the lineup for a second straight game. Honka was paired with Dan Hamhuis in the last game and Monday's practice.

Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal. He is coming off a solid effort in Thursday's win over Buffalo, stopping 21 of 22 shots in relief as the Stars rallied for the 4-3 win over the Sabres.

Tonight's game is the fourth of a six-game homestand for the Stars. They have picked up four of six points in the first three games, posting a 1-0-2 record.

Maple Leafs Watch

Frederik Andersen is the expected starter in goal tonight for Toronto. Andersen is 21-10-8 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. Defenseman Morgan Rielly will miss a sixth straight game with a knee injury. The Maple Leafs (23-15-9) are 11-3-2 in their past 16 games.

Tonight's Game

Who: Toronto Maple Leafs at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Jason Spezza
Devin Shore - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Lauri Korpikoski - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Julius Honka
Jordie Benn - Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

Scratched: Jiri Hudler, Curtis McKenzie, Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)

Maple Leafs Projected Lineup

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Mitchell Marner
Leo Komarov -- Nazem Kadri -- William Nylander
Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- Connor Brown
Matt Martin -- Frederik Gauthier -- Nikita Soshnikov

Martin Marincin -- Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner -- Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick -- Roman Polak

Frederik Andersen
Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Josh Leivo, Frank Corrado
Injured: Morgan Rielly (lower body), Ben Smith (hand)

This story was not subject to 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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