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Monday update: Ruff talks goaltending, defense decisions

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen has won three straight games, stopping 80 of 87 shots for a 2.34 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. But Lehtonen’s three strong starts to begin the season doesn’t mean he’ll get the nod in goal Tuesday when the Stars play at Philadelphia.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff has said in the past a goaltender’s record against a particular team could play a factor in deciding who starts.

“There’s a competition that drives the goaltending. There’s a schedule that drives the goaltending,” Ruff said prior to the season. “We may even look at buildings and a certain team and say, ‘Boy, this guy has been good.’”

Or maybe not so good when it comes to a record against a certain team. In the case of Lehtonen, his career mark against the Flyers hasn’t been stellar. He’s 1-10-3 with a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage. Antti Niemi hasn’t faced the Flyers a lot, but he’s had some success, posting a 2-1-0 mark with a 1.83 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

“Yep. Even before we left on this trip, we talked about the schedule and who we thought would play in different spots and being flexible,” Ruff said. “We are going to follow with a schedule that I am not going to tell you.”

In other words, it won’t always be as simple as win and you are in when it comes to a starting goaltender.

“It’s not going to be that,” Ruff said. “There’s going to be a workload; you could be winning, and I think we have two guys that have proven they can both win games for us. When the schedule gets heavier, and we are traveling back – to give you an example, we are traveling from Pittsburgh and playing a day later, that’s a situation where one guy could be rested, and you want to go with him. It isn’t going to be win, and you’re in. For me, it’s going to be making sure the right guy is in at the right time.”

Ruff is also pondering when to get defensemen Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth into the lineup. Both have been a healthy scratch in the first five games, and, in this case, the fact that the Stars are winning does play a role in the decision.

“We’ve discussed it. I’d like to get our two that have been sitting out in, but at the same time we’ve won a few in a row, and I thought they really played well the last game,” Ruff said. “There’s a competition to stay in, and there’s a competition to get in and, for me, it’s created a pretty good situation. But it is tougher on those two guys who are sitting out right now.

“They are handling it well. There are some frustrations. I’ve talked to both of them, but there’s not a lot you can say. They want to play, and that’s the attitude you want them to have.”

As for the forwards, it doesn’t appear they’ll be any change. Ruff liked what he saw out of the group and the line combinations he ran last game, a 4-2 win at Florida on Saturday.


Injury notes

*Forward Travis Moen, who missed Saturday’s game against Florida with an upper-body injury, practiced Monday but is not expected to play Tuesday.

“He was out there trying it, but still not ready to play,” Ruff said.

*There was still no update on forward Curtis McKenzie, who was injured on a check from behind in Thursday’s game at Tampa Bay. He is still being evaluated by doctors in Dallas.

“I don’t have one yet for you. Soon as we do, we’ll announce that, or somebody will let you know,” Ruff said.


Seguin NHL’s second star of the week

Stars center Tyler Seguin was named the NHL’s second star of the week on Monday. Seguin had seven points (three goals, four assists) in helping lead the Stars to three straight wins to improve to 4-1-0 on the season. Seguin had a big game Saturday against Florida, tallying two goals and two assists in the Stars’ 4-2 win over the Panthers. Montreal’s Carey Price was the first star and St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko was the third star.


Quotable

“Val was in on some good opportunities. He skated well and hung onto the puck. That looked more like the Val we need.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff on the play of forward Valeri Nichushkin, who returned to the lineup Saturday after sitting out two games as a healthy scratch

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.

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