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Hanzal returns, Honka in on defense as Stars face Flames

Ben Bishop gets the start in goal as the Stars aim for a fourth straight win at home

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars will make a couple of lineup changes - one at forward and one on defense - as they take on the Calgary Flames tonight at American Airlines Center.

Up front, center Martin Hanzal will return to the mix after missing the past two games due to a hand injury. Hanzal was injured late in last Saturday's 6-3 win over Edmonton.

"It's been getting better every day, so I think I am ready for today," Hanzal said.

Hanzal missed all of training camp and most of the preseason due to an ankle injury and has missed five games this season with different injuries.

"He's come out and been really good and then got hurt three times," said coach Ken Hitchcock. "It's been unfortunate for him because just when he's having a huge impact on the game and our team, boom - he's out. We just want to see him stay healthy because he has a huge impact on our team."

Hanzal centered a line this morning with Gemel Smith on the left wing and Brett Ritchie on the right. Remi Elie is expected to sit out as the scratch at forward tonight.

On defense, Julius Honka will draw into the lineup for the first time since Oct. 24. Honka started the season with the Stars but was assigned to the AHL in late October. Now, he's back with the Stars down to six healthy defensemen due to the injury to Marc Methot.

Honka was paired with Stephen Johns in this morning's skate and saw time on the second power-play unit.

Video: Hitch and Shore talk about Jere's legacy

"The second [power play] unit is more of a shooting unit, more traffic oriented, more shots from the points," said Hitchcock. "And we want to see if we can add to our transition. We feel like we are playing really well right now, but can we quicken up our transition? Can we get the puck into the forwards' hands a little quicker? It seems that is where this league has gone, and we have a player who plays like that, so we want to give him a chance to see if he can help us."

Jamie Oleksiak will be the scratch on defense.

Ben Bishop was the first goaltender off the ice, so he is expected to get the start in goal. Kari Lehtonen returned to the team after a personal leave and will be the backup tonight.

The Stars (11-10-1) come into tonight's game with three straight wins at home and eight wins in their last nine games at American Airlines Center.

Players wore yellow skate laces at this morning's skate in honor of Jere Lehtinen who will have his No. 26 retired in a pregame ceremony tonight.

"He's the highlight package for a coach to show how to play the right way," Hitchcock said of Lehtinen. "I've never seen a guy in my coaching career that I never coached. I basically asked him how he was and that's all the coaching I ever did. You didn't have to tell him how to play, you didn't have to tell him how to compete, you didn't have to tell him where to go on the ice. His instincts -- both defensively and offensively -- were excellent. He was the instant fix. When somebody was struggling we played him with him and helped him along."

The Lehtinen jersey retirement ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m.


Flames Watch

Mike Smith will get the start in goal tonight for the Flames (12-8-1). He is 11-6-1 with a 2.52 goals against average and .925 save percentage. The Flames, who are coming off a 1-0 overtime loss at Columbus on Wednesday, are 4-1-1 in their past six games overall. The Flames assigned goaltender Eddie Lack to the AHL on Friday and recalled goaltender David Rittich.


Tonight's Game

Who: Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars 
Where: American Airlines Center 
When: 8:00 p.m. 
TV: Fox Sports Southwest  
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM


Stars Projected Lineup

Devin Shore - Jamie Benn - Alexander Radulov 
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Jason Spezza 
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick 
Gemel Smith - Martin Hanzal - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg 
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn 
Stephen Johns - Julius Honka

Ben Bishop 
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Remi Elie 
Injured: Marc Methot (knee)


Flames Projected Lineup

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Micheal Ferland 
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik 
Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - Jaromir Jagr 
Kris Versteeg - Curtis Lazar - Troy Brouwer

Mark Giordano - Dougie Hamilton 
Troy Brodie - Travis Hamonic 
Brett Kulak - Michael Stone

Mike Smith 
David Rittich

Scratched: Matt Stajan, Freddie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski 
Injured: None

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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