The Dallas Stars take on the Washington Capitals tonight and both teams sit one point out of a playoff spot in their respective conferences.
The Stars are one point behind Phoenix with one game in hand in the Western Conference. The Capitals are one point behind Columbus in the East, but have played one more game than the Blue Jackets.
Tonight’s game kicks off a key stretch of four road games in six days against Eastern Conference teams, and the focus right now is on the Capitals, especially their top-ranked power play. Staying out of the penalty box will be key.
“We know that the power play is 40 percent of their goals and we know discipline is going to be a big issue,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “When we’re killing penalties tonight we’ve got to make sure we kill them.”
Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal tonight. It will be his sixth straight. As expected, defenseman Patrik Nemeth, called up from the Texas Stars yesterday due to an injury to Aaron Rome, will make his NHL debut tonight.
“I’ve been looking forward to this a long time,” Nemeth said. “It should be fun.”
The 22-year-old Nemeth, listed at 6-3, 235 pounds, is considered a solid defensive defenseman.
“He’s played a solid game down in Austin, he’s done a real nice job defending. He’s played a lot of minutes,” said Ruff. “We’re hoping he can step in and be that same guy here. It’s going to be his first game, but we’re going to give him this opportunity and see what he can do for us.”
Kevin Connauton will be the healthy scratch on defense for the sixth time in the last seven games.
“I’ve talked to Kevin. It is frustrating [for him],” said Ruff. “I think that Kevin has come a ways this year and he still has a ways to go. His strength is more on the offensive side of it, where Nemeth is more on the defensive side and we’re turning a little more in that direction. I asked Kevin to not get frustrated, to keep on working.”
Jaroslav Halak will start in goal for Washington. Forward Dustin Penner skated this morning, but left the ice early due to illness. The Capitals have called up Flower Mound native Chris Brown from the AHL in case Penner can’t go tonight.
Who: Dallas Stars at Washington Capitals
Where: Verizon Center
When: 6:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Ray Whitney – Dustin Jeffrey – Alex Chiasson
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Patrik Nemeth – Sergei Gonchar
Capitals projected lineup
Mikhail Grabovski - Jay Beagle - Alexander Ovechkin
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Dustin Penner - Evgeny Kuznetsov -Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Mike Green
Jack Hillen – Julien Brouillette
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.