Kari Lehtonen is scheduled to go the entire game and ten players will see their first preseason action as the Dallas Stars play their third exhibition game, taking on the Lightning in Tampa, Florida tonight.
Valeri Nichushkin, Trevor Daley, Shawn Horcoff, Sergei Gonchar, Colton Sceviour, Brett Ritchie and John Klingberg are among the group of players suiting up for their first preseason game.
Nichushkin has battled through a groin injury during training camp. Daley has been dealing with a sore hip. Gonchar suffered an ear laceration during a scrimmage Sunday in Fort Worth. The Stars have been cautious with Sceviour (shoulder) and Klingberg (hip), who both had offseason surgery. Ritchie has been out almost two weeks after breaking the tip of his right pinkie finger at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.
“I am happy to be back. I got back a little quicker than I thought I would originally. It was less than two weeks, but it felt like a month,” Ritchie said. “If you look back at it, it wasn’t that bad. I feel good, the finger feels good and I feel like I am in game shape. I am excited for tonight.”
Ritchie, one of the Stars’ top forward prospects, is expected to make a strong push for NHL playing time.
“He’s excited to get going,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “He was having a real good camp in Traverse City and I am excited to see him play. He’s skating well, seems to be shooting the puck real well. He’s another guy who is chomping at the bit and is right there knocking on the door.”
This will be Lehtonen’s second appearance of the preseason. He stopped 11 of 12 shots in the exhibition opener against St. Louis on Monday.
“He looks comfortable. He looks at real ease with his game. He’s found some good rhythm early in camp and in practices he has had real good focus. That comes with years of experience,” said Ruff. “He had a heck of a year last year. The regular season was a huge test for him, and he passed it. He’s come to camp in real good shape and he is determined to be better.”
Jussi Rynnas will back up Lehtonen tonight.
Friday’s game will kick off a stretch where the Stars will play four games in five nights to conclude their preseason schedule.
“Ideally, you’d like them spread out,” Ruff said. “You don’t like that many games in that few of days. If you overplay anybody you risk some injury. Travel is a little bit tougher. But camps are supposed to be tough, so I think part of it is good. Is it ideal? It isn’t ideal, so it is somewhere in the middle.”
Goaltender Ben Bishop will get in his first preseason game for the Lightning. Steven Stamkos will make his preseason debut for the Lightning along with forward Ryan Callahan and defensemen Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer. Former Stars captain Brenden Morrow will be in tonight for Tampa Bay as well.
“It looks like we are going to face a pretty strong lineup,” said Ruff. “It will be a real good test. It will be a real good game to judge where some of these guys are.”
Who: Dallas Stars at Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 6:30 p.m.
Radio: AM 970 WFLA (Tampa)
Video stream: TBD
Stars projected lineup
Shawn Horcoff – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Brendan Ranford – Vernon Fiddler – Brett Ritchie
Nicolas Blanchard – Jason Dickinson – Colton Sceviour
Ludwig Karlsson – Taylor Peters – Scott Glennie
Trevor Daley – Julius Honka
Jordie Benn – Sergei Gonchar
Patrik Nemeth – John Klingberg
Lightning projected lineup
Nikita Kucherov – Steven Stamkos – Ryan Callahan
Brenden Morrow – Brian Boyle – Joel Vermin
Yanni Gourde – Cedric Paquette – Brett Connolly
Henri Ikonen – Cody Kunyk – Philippe Paradis
Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman
Eric Brewer – Anthony DeAngelo
J.P. Cote – Matt Corrente
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.