After playing seven of their first nine games out of the All-Star break on the road, the Dallas Stars will play five of their next seven games at American Airlines Center starting with tonight’s tilt against the Boston Bruins.
“It’s been a hard month,” said Stars forward Ales Hemsky. “It’s been weird coming back home for just Friday and Saturday, and you’re pretty much on the road the whole month. It’s a little different, but it is what it is.”
Despite the heavy road schedule, the Stars have fared well, posting a 6-2-1 record since the break including 5-1-1 on the road. Now, they come home where they have had some ups and downs recently but are 20-7-0 and rank fourth in the league with 40 points.
“We’ve played well. Obviously, it’s an area we’ve tried to improve,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We have a good home record, and we hope to continue to play well here.”
Kari Lehtonen is expected to get the start in goal tonight against Boston. This will be the fifth start in the past seven games for Lehtonen, who is 3-0-1 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in his past four starts.
The Stars aren’t expected to make any other lineup changes tonight. They are likely to go with the same 12 forwards and six defensemen as the last game, but there could be some line juggling and changes with the defense pairs.
The Stars held an optional skate this morning, so there were no line rushes. But Ruff did change things up in Friday’s practice, moving Ales Hemsky to the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. On defense, he had Johnny Oduya paired with Jordie Benn and Jason Demers skating with Patrik Nemeth. We won’t know until warm-ups if that’s what Ruff will roll with tonight.
Demers had a rough game Thursday in Arizona and has been struggling lately. Ruff said he was determined to help Demers work his way out of it.
“I know how good he played for us for a long period of time. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and try to play him out of this,” Ruff said. “That might mean reduced time, but he’s an important piece of our team, and he’s a piece of that top-four pair for us that played so well for the first 40-50 games. At this time of the year, he’s a piece that we need in there playing. The obligation is on me to get him playing well. If plan A doesn’t work, then I’ve got to go to plan B. Right now I’m going to try to play him out of it. I think he realizes and knows that the game has got to get there and got him under a little bit of a program where I think we can get him out of it.”
Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak and Radek Faksa are tonight’s expected scratches.
Tuukka Rask will get the start in goal tonight for Boston. Rask is 21-17-5 with a 2.59 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. Forward Ryan Spooner is questionable tonight due to illness. The Bruins, who lost 2-0 at Nashville Thursday, are wrapping up a season-long six-game road trip tonight. They are 3-2-0 in the first five games.
“I think the bottom line is we came on this road trip to have a winning road trip and to win tonight would be huge,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We’d much prefer to be 4-2 than to be 3-3, so nothing changes from our mindset as far as coming out here tonight and winning. Losing a game like you did last game, you want to bounce back and have a good effort, so that’s what we’re looking for from our hockey club.”
Who: Boston Bruins at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Ales Hemsky
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Patrick Sharp
Valeri Nichushkin – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth – Jason Demers
Injured: Travis Moen (lower body)
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak, Radek Faksa
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Brett Connolly
Loui Eriksson– David Krejci – David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey – Joonas Kemppainen – Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo – Max Talbot - Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara – Adam McQuaid
Torey Krug – Kevan Miller
Dennis Seidenberg – Joe Morrow
Injured: Chris Kelly (fractured femur), Ryan Spooner (illness)
Scratched: Tyler Randell, Zach Trotman
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.