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Spezza to miss game for Stars against streaking Flames

The veteran center is sidelined by an illness as Dallas returns to AAC for a home-heavy portion of its schedule

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars will be without center Jason Spezza tonight when they take on the Calgary Flames at American Airlines Center. Spezza, who will be missing his first game of the season, is ill.

"Spezza got sick last night, strep," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said.

With Spezza not playing, Montgomery will make some tweaks to the line adjustments he rolled out in Monday's practice.

For tonight's game, he is going to have Devin Shore center the second line with Valeri Nichushkin and Alexander Radulov. He'll keep Denis Gurianov on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and he is going to stick with his plan of playing Radek Faksa at left wing with Martin Hanzal at center and Tyler Pitlick at right wing. Jason Dickinson will center the fourth line with Mattias Janmark and Blake Comeau on the wings.

The Stars will make a change on defense tonight. Julius Honka will come out of the lineup, and Joel Hanley will come back in after sitting out the last game as a scratch.

The defense pairs will look like this: Esa Lindell-Miro Heiskanen; Gavin Bayreuther-Roman Polak; Joel Hanley-Taylor Fedun.

Video: Stars bracing for hot Flames team

"As a coaching staff we were just more comfortable with what we were getting from that six, and it's what we were winning with," Montgomery said of the decision to make the change on defense.

There was some question about Hanley's availability for tonight's game since he was put on waivers Monday and available to be claimed by another team. But he cleared waivers just as the Stars' morning skate was concluding at the AAC. Hanley is available to be sent down to the AHL and likely will be in the near future to open a roster spot as John Klingberg (hand injury) gets ready to come off injured reserve, but he is going to stay for now and play tonight.

Ben Bishop will get the start in goal against the Flames.

The Stars (16-14-3) are coming off a 0-4-0 road trip and a road-heavy portion of their schedule in which they played 17 of their last 24 games on the road and went 11-10-3 during that stretch. Now, they will see a lot of home games -- seven of the next nine and 14 of the next 20 will be played at the AAC, where they are 10-3-1 this season.

"It's important to get as many points as we can to make up for the points that we lost," Shore said. "That said, you don't want to dwell on it too much because games come at you pretty fast and heavy in this league.

"But it's no secret that we've done well in this building, and we just want to keep that going to build something where we can be confident going up against any opponent in any building."


Opposition watch: Calgary Flames

The Flames (22-10-2) won their third straight game with a 7-2 victory at St. Louis on Sunday. The win marked the seventh time in the last 14 games that Calgary, which ranks fifth in the NHL in scoring at 3.59 goals per game, has scored five or more goals in a game.

The Flames, who are in first place in the Pacific Division, have won eight of their last nine games (8-1-0) and are 12-2-1 in their last 15. Forward James Neal is out tonight with an upper-body injury. Sam Bennett (upper-body injury) is a game-time decision.

David Rittich is the expected starter in goal.


Stat pack
  • This is the second of three meetings between the Stars and Flames this season. The Stars won the first meeting, 4-3, in overtime in Calgary on Nov. 28.

  • The Stars are 10-3-1 at home.

  • The Flames are 11-7-0 on the road.

  • The Stars rank 11th in home goal scoring at 3.57 per game.

  • The Flames rank 1st in road goals against at 2.17 per game.

  • The Flames rank 11th in road goal scoring at 2.94 per game.

  • The Stars rank eighth in home goals against at 2.50 per game.

  • The Stars are 9-3-1 against the Pacific Division.

  • The Flames are 10-2-1 against the Central Division.

  • Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau is tied for sixth in the NHL in scoring with 45 points (15 goals, 30 assists).

  • Tyler Seguin leads Dallas in scoring with 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists).


Tonight's game

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


Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Denis Gurianov
Valeri Nichushkin - Devin Shore - Alexander Radulov
Radek Faksa - Martin Hanzal - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Blake Comeau

Esa Lindell - Miro Heiskanen
Gavin Bayreuther - Roman Polak
Joel Hanley - Taylor Fedun

Ben Bishop
Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Julius Honka, Brett Ritchie
Injured: Jason Spezza (illness), John Klingberg (hand), Connor Carrick (foot), Marc Methot (knee), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches)

Flames projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Austin Czarnik
Kerby Rychel - Derek Ryan - Sam Bennett
Alan Quine - Mark Jankowski - Garnet Hathaway

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson

David Rittich
Mike Smith

Scratched: Dalton Prout
Injured: James Neal (upper body), Juuso Valimaki (lower body), Michael Stone (blood clot), Michael Frolik (lower body)

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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