The Dallas Stars open a three-game homestand tonight against the Buffalo Sabres and will look to continue their winning ways at American Airlines Center.
Since losing on opening night to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Stars (7-6-0) have won four straight games at home, outscoring the opposition 14-7.
Tonight's game will present some challenges, though. The first game home after a long road trip often can be for a tough one. And Stars coach Ken Hitchcock senses his team is running a little low in the fuel department.
"You just have to fight through it," Hitchcock said. "It's more about energy. We haven't had a break. The players were saying it feels like we are still on the road and it's going to be like that until Monday. We've just got to deal with it. We've kept our road focus. We had our meeting yesterday, we had a short pregame skate today, and we'll follow up with a proper evaluation tomorrow. We're not going to tax anybody. We're going to try to put all our energy into the game. But we're not oblivious to the fact that we are not running high on energy right now. We've got to find it from within."
The Stars will be looking for a good start tonight, something they didn't get in Thursday's 5-2 loss at Winnipeg. The Stars fell behind 3-0 in the first period and could never recover.
"Coming back after a long road trip, we need a good first period and good momentum in the game," Stars defenseman John Klingberg said.
Video: Pregame: DAL vs. BUF
The only lineup change for tonight is that Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal. It will be the third start for Lehtonen who stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 2-1 win at Calgary during this past road trip. In Calgary, the Stars were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights, and Lehtonen came up big. Hitchcock is hoping Lehtonen can deliver again Saturday.
"Every game when you are a backup goalie is important," Hitchcock said. "You are getting situations that are not an advantage for the team. I don't want to say you are saving the team, but you are rescuing them at times. He did a great job of it in Calgary, and he's got to do it again now."
Based on this morning's skate the Stars will go with the same line combinations and defense pairs used at the start of Thursday's game in Winnipeg. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak will be the lone healthy scratch for the Stars. Forwards Martin Hanzal and Brett Ritchie remain out with injuries.
GM Jim Nill said Ritchie, who missed Thursday's game in Winnipeg with an upper-body injury, is expected to be out five to seven days.
Hitchcock said Martin Hanzal, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, skated on his own for 45 minutes today. Hanzal is expected to join the team for practice on Sunday but is not expected to play in Monday's game.
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is out for the Sabres tonight with an upper-body injury. He is listed as day to day. Robin Lehner will get the start in goal for Buffalo. Lehner is 3-4-1 with a 2.94 goals against average and .905 save percentage. The Sabres, who are coming off a 5-4 win in Arizona, are 4-7-2 on the season and have won three of their past five games.
Who: Buffalo Sabres at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars Projected Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Remi Elie
Jason Dickinson - Mattias Janmark - Devin Shore
Gemel Smith - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Marc Methot - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Esa Lindell - Stephen Johns
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Martin Hanzal (lower body), Brett Ritchie (upper body)
Sabres Projected Lineup
Evander Kane - Jack Eichel - Jason Pominville
Benoit Pouliot - Ryan O'Reilly - Kyle Okposo
Zemgus Girgensons - Sam Reinhart - Seth Griffith
Matt Moulson - Johan Larsson - Jordan Nolan
Marco Scandella - Justin Faulk
Jake McCabe - Matt Tennyson
Justin Falk - Taylor Fedun
Scratched: Nicholas Baptiste
Injured: Rasmus Ristolainen (upper body), Justin Bailey (lower body), Nathan Beaulieu (upper body), Josh Gorges (lower body), Jacob Josefson (lower body), Zach Bogosian (lower body), Evan Rodrigues (hand)
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.