With the Dallas Mavericks playing an afternoon game at American Airlines Center, the Dallas Stars held their morning skate in Frisco. The Stars, who haven’t played since Tuesday, take on the New Jersey Devils tonight at the AAC.
The Stars are coming off a 5-2 loss to Winnipeg and have spent the past three days trying to right the ship in practice.
“I thought the energy was great this morning,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We are ready to go. It’s been a good two or three days.”
Defenseman Alex Goligoski (lower body) did not skate this morning. He’s banged up and the Stars have been giving him some time off. He didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, but he was on the ice Friday.
“Gave him the morning again. He’ll play tonight,” said Ruff. “He got a good practice yesterday but we just feel the best thing for him is to keep him off when we can.”
The lineup in Saturday morning’s skate was the same as the one the Stars rolled out in Friday’s practice. Jason Spezza centered the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin on the wings. Antoine Roussel and Ales Hemsky are on the second line with center Cody Eakin.
Hemsky will draw back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games and for the third time this season. Hemsky said sitting out hasn’t been easy.
“Everybody will get mad if you are not playing. If you didn’t there would be something wrong with you. If you just accept it that would be wrong. I think everybody would be mad,” he said. “Like I said before, you just have to stay with it and don’t think about it. You just have to focus on your game.”
Hemsky played one of his best games – probably his best – in the Stars’ 3-2 shootout win at New Jersey on Oct. 24. He didn’t register a point, but led the Stars with eight shots on goal and had some quality chances. Hemsky has seven points (two goals, five assists) and a minus-12 rating in 25 games this season.
“I just want the compete in the small areas, where we are getting pucks back, where we are there for pucks and where we are hanging around for second opportunities around the net,” Ruff said. “I thought that game in Jersey, he skated well. I thought there were some opportunities to hang around the net that would have led to some second chances. It’s more the in tight stuff.”
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so it appears he will get the start in goal tonight vs. New Jersey.
The Stars will be without Ryan Garbutt, who is serving the first game of his suspension for slew-footing Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien in Tuesday’s game. Travis Moen is expected to miss tonight’s game with an upper body injury. Moen did take part in this morning’s skate. It was the first time he has practiced with the team since being injured in Tuesday’s game against the Jets.
Nichushkin back in town
Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin, who underwent hip surgery in New York last month, is back in town after spending time in New Jersey doing rehab work. Nichushkin was at the Stars’ practice facility Saturday morning and was in good spirits.
“He fought (the injury) so hard through camp, and you never saw him smile. You see a smile on his face today,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He feels good. The pain is gone, but he still has a road to recovery. He seems to be a happy young man now, which is a good thing.”
Nichushkin underwent surgery on Nov. 18 and the Stars said he would be out four months. Ruff said Saturday there was no timeline for his return.
“I don’t have a timeline, and I don’t think we should try to guess at one,” Ruff said.
Although the 19-year-old Nichushkin will be out for a while, the Stars still believe he can make good use of the time he is not playing.
“It’s all about trying to make yourself better in the down time,” Ruff said. “He was in the meeting already this morning. We want to keep him involved, have him watching games. I think you can marginally get better and just being around is a good thing for him.”
New Jersey did not skate this morning. Cory Schneider is expected to start in goal. If New Jersey makes any lineup changes it will be to bring in defenseman Eric Gelinas. The Devils come into tonight’s game 2-5-3 over their last ten.
Who: New Jersey Devils 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 – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Curtis McKenzie – Travis Morin – Erik Cole
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Suspended: Ryan Garbutt
Injured: Travis Moen (upper body), Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
Devils projected lineup
Martin Havlat - Scott Gomez - Jaromir Jagr
Mike Cammalleri - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder
Stephen Gionta - Jacob Josefson - Steve Bernier
Jordin Tootoo - Tuomo Ruutu - Mike Sislo
Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Seth Helgeson - Peter Harrold
Scratched: Eric Gelinas
Injured: Dainius Zubrus (leg), Travis Zajac (mumps), Adam Larsson (mumps), Patrik Elias (groin), Bryce Salvador (lower body), Ryane Clowe (head)
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.