As expected, Jyrki Jokipakka will be in on defense tonight for the Dallas Stars when they take on the Arizona Coyotes at American Airlines Center. Expected to come out of the lineup to make room for Jokipakka is Jordie Benn.
Benn was among the last players off the ice at this morning’s skate at the AAC, an indication that he will be a healthy scratch tonight. Benn has struggled at times this season.
“For me, it’s really been up and down. He’s had some good moments, he’s had some tough moments,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Benn. “He’s faced some tough situations, out-numbered rushes where sometimes it’s his partner, or our team has got him in trouble. His game is a lot about skating and making that first play, and I think he’s had some good games and maybe had some tough ones, but you can say that for a lot of our defensemen.”
Jokipakka will be playing his fourth NHL game. He averaged 13:21 of ice time in his previous three games and registered no points.
“[I liked] his defending, overall,” Ruff said. “He’s played against some pretty good lines, and his defending through those games and in the preseason was good.”
Forward Patrick Eaves will be back in tonight after missing three games with a lower body injury. Curtis McKenzie is expected to be the scratch at forward. Ryan Garbutt remains out with an upper body injury.
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars, so he is expected to make his sixth straight start.
The Stars are winless in their last seven games at home (0-5-2) and 2-8-2 in their last 12 overall. Tonight’s game against Arizona is the second of a five-game homestand and another opportunity to get things headed in the right direction.
“We’re obviously sick of losing,” said defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We know that the only way to get out of it is to really just work harder. Everyone just wants to bring their best effort tonight. We feel like we just got to get one here and then we’ll start rolling. The mood’s pretty good. We just want to end this thing and get a result.”
The Arizona Coyotes did not skate Thursday morning. Center Martin Hanzal (lower body) and left wing Rob Klinkhammer (upper body) are questionable for tonight. No word on a starting goaltender, but Mike Smith is likely to get the nod.
Who: Arizona Coyotes 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 – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Erik Cole – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Brenden Dillon – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: D Jordie Benn, F Curtis McKenzie
Injured: F Ryan Garbutt (upper body), F Valeri Nichushkin (hip), D Patrik Nemeth (arm)
Coyotes projected lineup
Lauri Korpikoski – Antoine Vermette – Mikkel Boedker
Lucas Lessio – Sam Gagner – Shane Doan
Tobias Rieder – Kyle Chipchura – Martin Erat
Brandon McMillan – Joe Vitale – B.J. Crombeen
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Zybnek Michalek
Keith Yandle – Connor Murphy
Chris Summers – Michael Stone
Scratched: David Schlemko
Injured: Brandon Gormley (lower body), Martin Hanzal (lower body), Rob Klinkhammer (upper body), David Moss (upper body)
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.