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Lehtonen in Goal as Stars Take on Avalanche

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Colorado Avalanche at American Airlines Center.

Lehtonen, who missed Tuesday’s start in Winnipeg due to an undisclosed “medical issue,” was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars at this morning’s skate. Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who seldom confirms his starting goalie, would only say that Lehtonen is healthy enough to play.

“Kari is healthy, so he is available to start,” Ruff said.

Ales Hemsky, who has been playing through an injury recently, is good to go tonight as well.

The lines at this morning’s skate were the same as Thursday’s practice. That included Jason Spezza centering Erik Cole and Hemsky and Cody Eakin centering Jamie Benn and Brett Ritchie.

It doesn’t appear there will be any changes on defense, which means David Schlemko will be a healthy scratch for a 13th straight game.

Tonight’s game is a big one for both the Stars and Avalanche. They are tied at 63 points and eight points behind Minnesota, which holds the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“It’s coming down to that time and these points are important,” said Eakin. “We need to step on the gas pedal, moving up and doing ourselves favors by winning some games.”

Notes: Nemeth making progress in AHL

*Stars defenseman Patrik Nemeth is making progress in his assignment to the AHL. Nemeth had been out since Oct. 18 with an arm laceration and was assigned to the Texas Stars last week to get in some playing time. He has played three games with Texas, and he’s expected to get two more games in this weekend.

“He started a little slow in the first couple games, and the progress report is that he’s gotten better every game,” Ruff said. “He’s playing good minutes now, which is exactly what he’s needed after not playing for a long stretch. We’ll take it game-by-game and see if we can get him back if he is playing well enough.”

*Stars forward Patrick Eaves, who has been out since Feb. 13 with a concussion, skated with the team at this morning’s skate.

Avalanche watch

Semyon Varlamov will get the start in goal for the Avalanche. Daniel Briere will be back in the lineup after sitting out the last six games as a healthy scratch. The Avalanche have a big back-to-back this weekend, taking on the Stars tonight and then eighth-place Minnesota Saturday night.

“I think we’re looking at a great chance, a great opportunity,” Avs center Matt Duchene said. “I don’t think we should look at it if we lose what happens. It’s got to be when we win, we’re going to be right there. We’re taking it one game at a time. We’re not worried about tomorrow. We’re worried about tonight right now. I think that’s the best way to go about it.”

Friday’s game

Who: Colorado Avalanche 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

Erik ColeJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Jamie BennCody EakinBrett Ritchie
Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerRyan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzieShawn HorcoffColton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg
Jyrki JokipakkaTrevor Daley
Jordie BennJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen
Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: David Schlemko

Injured: Patrick Eaves (concussion), Tyler Seguin (knee), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)

Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog – Ryan O'Reilly – Nathan MacKinnon
Maxime Talbot – Matt Duchene – Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay – John Mitchell – Dennis Everberg
Cody McLeod – Marc-Andre Cliche – Daniel Briere

Nate Guenin – Tyson Barrie
Jan Hejda – Zach Redmond
Brad Stuart – Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov
Reto Berra

Scratched: Paul Carey

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (knee), Erik Johnson (knee), Jamie McGinn (back), Borna Rendulic (leg), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

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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