Kari Lehtonen is expected to get the start in goal when the Dallas Stars take on the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul tonight. It would be Lehtonen’s first start since the January 19 game at Los Angeles.
Lehtonen played the final two periods in Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Chicago, stopping 13 of 15 shots and getting no decision. He is 13-5-0 this season with a 2.82 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.
Although Stars coach Lindy Ruff juggled his lines in Monday’s practice, it sounds as though the Stars could go with basically the same combinations as last game except for Travis Moen coming in and Colton Sceviour sitting out as a healthy scratch.
“When you go back to the last game, the lines did a lot of good things, but we didn’t finish. I’d like to see them finish,” Ruff said. “Our five-on-five play was actually really good in the game where we didn’t give up a lot.”
There are no expected changes on defense. Jordie Benn and Patrik Nemeth will skate as the third pair for the third straight game.
“We are trying to see if they can build a little bit of chemistry,” Ruff said. “Patrik has played well, and we are giving him a few games to see if he can put together a consistent run. Jordie, coming off injury, has been a little bit inconsistent, but I thought last game was better. And he was a big part of the run we were on. We want to see if these guys can solidify a five-six for us.”
Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak will be the healthy scratches on defense.
The Stars face a Wild team that has been reeling. Minnesota has lost ten of its last eleven games and has dropped out of the playoff picture, sitting three points out of the final playoff spot in the West.
“I think we are going to see a desperate hockey club,” Ruff said. “They are looking for one game to change the direction they are going. They are back home after losing three on the road, and we are going to see as desperate a team as you can possibly see.”
Darcy Kuemper will get the start in goal tonight for the Wild. He is 5-2-4 this season with a 2.06 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He faced Dallas once this season, stopping 40 of 44 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss Nov. 28 in St. Paul. D Jared Spurgeon will miss tonight’s game due to injury. Forwards Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker, who were both scratched the last game, will come back into the lineup tonight. The Wild have lost five straight and are 1-9-1 in their past eleven games. They are back home after a 0-3-0 road trip.
“Mixed feelings about coming back home right now,” Wild coach Mike Yeo told the team’s official site. “A little home cooking could be nice for us, but I'd be lying if I wasn’t a little nervous for [Tuesday].
“Certainly our fan base is more than a little restless right now, and they expect more of us, and they deserve more of us.”
Who: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild
Where: Xcel Energy Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Patrick Sharp – Mattias Janmark – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Vernon Fiddler – Radek Faksa – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Patrik Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Injured: Jason Spezza (upper body)
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak, Colton Sceviour
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Erik Haula – Jason Zucker
Ryan Carter – Jarret Stoll – Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter – Christian Folin
Marco Scandella – Matt Dumba
Nate Prosser – Mike Reilly
Injured: Jared Spurgeon (deep bruise), Jonas Brodin (foot)
Scratched: Chris Porter, Niklas Backstrom
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.