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Jordie Benn a Likely Scratch Tonight; Jason Spezza Makes Return to Ottawa

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

It appears there will be one lineup change for the Dallas Stars when they take on the Senators tonight in Ottawa. Jamie Oleksiak will be in on defense and David Schlemko will play for a second straight game. And that means Jordie Benn is expected to be the odd man out tonight.

“I want to keep everybody up and running,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’ve got seven [defensemen] and I’d like to keep Oleksiak in the mix. I don’t want him to sit out too long. I thought he had a couple of rough outings before I sat him out, and I’d like to see how he responds. I think in Schlemko’s case, I haven’t played him a lot, and I’d like to see him in back-to-back [games] and see if he can build a little momentum in his game. We’ll go from there. We’ll take it game-by-game.”

There will be no changes among the forward group. It appears Ruff will go with the same line combinations he used in Tuesday’s game at Montreal.

Erik Cole (upper body) and Brett Ritchie (undisclosed) will not play tonight. Cole will miss his second straight game and Ritchie has now missed five straight with his injury.

Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, indicating that he will get the start in goal tonight.

The Stars have lost three of their last five games. In all three losses, the Stars had more shots on goal than the opposition and the better chances, but came up on the short end of the score. In those three losses, the Stars scored four goals on 126 shots.

“You look at the type of opportunities we’ve missed first and what we could have done differently,” said Ruff. “There was a couple we couldn’t hit the net. There was a couple we misfired. On some of them we’ve made the goalie look good. Sometimes there is a point where you can bear down a little harder. … We stressed it yesterday, bearing down on some of these opportunities and not letting goaltenders beat us.”

Tonight will mark Stars center Jason Spezza’s first game in Ottawa since he was traded from the Senators to Dallas during the offseason. It should be an emotional night for Spezza, who played his first 11 NHL seasons in Ottawa.

“It’s a little nostalgic coming back to the rink, just reminds you of some of the good times you had,” Spezza said. “But you handle it professionally. I am a member of the Dallas Stars. I am excited about where we are going. I think we are starting to come together as a team and find our identity. That part excites me. And this is closing the book a little bit on the move.”

Spezza registered 687 points in 686 games with the Senators and helped lead them to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final against Anaheim.

“I'm sure there will be a little bit of butterflies and uneasiness, but that's kind of standard,” Spezza said. "That's part of being an athlete. You get that with big games of kind of unknowns. I'm excited to play here and I'm excited to kind of bookend it a bit too.”

Senators watch

Robin Lehner will get the start in goal for the Senators. It will be his first start since the 5-4 loss to Dallas on Jan. 13. No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson has a hand injury, and the Senators recalled Andrew Hammond from Binghamton (AHL) as a result.

Senators coach Dave Cameron talked this morning about his team’s 5-4 loss to Dallas back on Jan. 13.

“I liked our whole team's game in our last game against Dallas...I just didn't like the result,” Cameron said. “I think we held them, if I remember correctly, we held them to 13 scoring chances and I think we had 17. So, if you jostle those numbers most games you win. But we ended up giving up four goals in the second period. Not good enough.”

Thursday’s game

Who: Dallas Stars at Ottawa Senators
Where: Canadian Tire Centre
When: 6:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves
Shawn HorcoffJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt
Travis MoenVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg
David SchlemkoTrevor Daley
Jamie OleksiakJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen
Anders Lindback

Scratched: Jordie Benn

Injured: Erik Cole (upper body), Brett Ritchie (undisclosed), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)

Senators projected lineup

Mike Hoffman – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Alex Chiasson
Clarke MacArthur – Mika Zibanejad – Bobby Ryan
Milan Michalek – Kyle Turris – Mark Stone
Erik Condra – Curtis Lazar – Chris Neil

Marc Methot – Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen – Cody Ceci
Chris Phillips – Eric Gryba

Robin Lehner
Andrew Hammond

Scratched: David Legwand, Patrick Wiercioch

Injured: Craig Anderson (hand), Mark Borowiecki (leg) and Zack Smith (wrist)

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.

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