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Hitchcock making changes on defense for Thursday's tilt

Jamie Oleksiak back in, Julius Honka out for the Stars against Arizona

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Stars coach Ken Hitchcock will make some changes to his defense for Thursday's game at Arizona. As Hitchcock promised earlier in the week, Jamie Oleksiak will return to the lineup after sitting out the past two games as a healthy scratch, and Julius Honka will come out.

Oleksiak went out of the lineup to make room for the return of Dan Hamhuis, who missed two games with a sore groin. Hitchcock didn't want to Hamhuis lose his spot due to missing time with injury, so Oleksiak had to sit. And now, Honka is going out because Hitchcock wants to get Oleksiak back into the mix.

"He's a good young player," Hitchcock said of Honka. "He's done a good job, and we don't want to get him overwhelmed here, so we'll pace him. He's been really good. We've been really happy. We've been really happy with Oleksiak. He didn't deserve to come out either. If you make that rule that you can't come out on injury, then you've got to live with it."

Heading into the season, Hitchcock said he was looking to establish a group of six top defensemen, and run with it, but they aren't there at the moment.

"We're looking to get the group of six and right now we've got a group of seven and [Greg Pateryn] is in as a fill guy," Hitchcock said. "That's just the way it is right now."

Video: Stars ready for round 2 with Arizona

As for the defense pairs, Hitchcock said he will go back to the ones he used to start the season: Esa Lindell-John Klingberg; Marc Methot-Jamie Oleksiak; Dan Hamhuis-Stephen Johns.

Hitchcock said he plans to run with the same group of forwards on Thursday, meaning that Gemel Smith likely will remain a healthy scratch for a sixth straight game. Hitchcock did juggle his lines some in Wednesday's practice, but we'll have to wait and see if he rolls with that on Thursday.

There won't be any change in goal. Ben Bishop will make his fifth straight start Thursday in Arizona. Bishop is off to an excellent start to the season with a 3-1-0 record, 1.49 goals against average and .944 save percentage. Hitchcock said with the current schedule the plan has been to go with Bishop except for the second game of the season when the Stars played at St. Louis on the second night of a back-to-back.

"When you are playing a light schedule like we are there is no reason Ben can't play," Hitchcock said. "It gets heated up here in November, but our feeling was the only game we were locked in on with [Kari] Lehtonen was the St. Louis game. Other than that, Ben was supposed to play most of the games."

Both forward Brett Ritchie and Klingberg did not participate in Wednesday's practice in Frisco. Hitchcock said it was a maintenance day for both players and that both are fine and will play Thursday in Arizona.

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 DallasStars.com 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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