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Lehtonen in goal, changes on defense vs. Predators

Defensemen Oleksiak, Lindell in for first time this season; Hudler out at forward due to illness

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Kari Lehtonen will make his first start of the season as the Dallas Stars play the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena tonight.

Lehtonen took over for Antti Niemi in the second period of Saturday's 6-5 loss at Colorado and stopped 12 of 13 shots in 27:36 of playing time. Lehtonen is 9-8-1 vs. Nashville in his career with a 2.38 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

The Stars will make some changes on defense with Jamie Oleksiak and Esa Lindell playing for the first time this season. Jordie Benn and Patrik Nemeth are the expected scratches on defense.

"I want to try to get everybody going," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's not really based on play, except I have eight defensemen I used through the whole training camp. It will sort itself out. It's not easy for the two guys that are coming out, but that process usually works out where somebody will step up and become a player where you don't want to take him out. Right now, I just feel all these guys can play, and I don't want them sitting there too long."

Video: Tough early season test against Nashville

Up front, Jiri Hudler is out tonight due to illness so Curtis McKenzie will draw in for the first time this season.

The Dallas lines are expected to look the way they did in Monday's practice which had Devin Shore centering the second line with Patrick Sharp and Brett Ritchie and Jason Spezza playing right wing on the third line with Antoine Roussel and Radek Faksa. Ruff said Spezza played well on the wing last season, so he is comfortable moving him there.

"I got some great play out of him on the wing playing with Matty Janmark," Ruff said. "I like what Devin Shore has done, and I am bumping him up a little bit. Faksa and Roussel have played well together; [Spezza] should be a good fit over there. He can still step in and take those key draws in our end. It's really just a part-time position when you have two centermen because if he is on the right side in his own end, he is taking those draws and playing center. It's basically the same as what we had last year with him and Janmark together."

The Stars will get their first look at Nashville with P.K Subban on the blue line. The Predators acquired Subban from Montreal for defenseman Shea Weber in one of the offseason's huge trades.

"[Subban] adds a more dynamic offensive flair," Ruff said. "They both have heavy shots. P.K. has a lot more one-on-one play, join the rush and create. He can pull off some moves that Weber doesn't. Weber does it physically, he has a bomb for a shot and is a huge man defending."

Predators Watch

Pekka Rinne is the expected starter in goal for Nashville tonight. The Predators (1-1-0) come into tonight's game following a split in a home-and-home series with Chicago. The Predators will be looking to limit the impact of Dallas' big guns tonight.

"Pressure - we've just got to pressure them," Nashville forward Craig Smith told the Predators official site. "They have some guys that can make some magic happen with the puck. I think if we can really tighten up and not give them those zone times to make a play, we'll be better off. We have to limit their chances."

The Predators announced Monday that defenseman Anthony Bitetto and forward Miikka Salomaki are both out long-term due to injury.

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
When: 7:00 p.m. (CT)
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Patrick Sharp - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Lauri Korpikoski

Dan Hamhuis - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Esa Lindell - Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jordie Benn
Injured: Jiri Hudler (illness), Ales Hemsky (groin), Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee)

Predators Projected Lineup

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - James Neal
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Kevin Fiala
Viktor Arvidsson - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith
Cody Bass - Colton Sissons - Calle Jarnkrok

Roman Josi - P.K. Subban
Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis
Matt Carle - Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne
Marek Mazanec

Scratched: None
Injured: Anthony Bitetto (upper body) and Miikka Salomaki (upper body)

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 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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