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Morning Skate: Faksa to make NHL debut, Lehtonen in goal vs. Panthers

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Radek Faksa
will make his NHL debut tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.

Faksa, Dallas’ first-round pick (13th overall) in 2012, was called up from the Texas Stars yesterday and is expected to center the fourth line tonight with Antoine Roussel and Colton Sceviour on his wings.

“This is my first game in the NHL, and it’s what I have been looking forward to all my hockey career, what I was working for,” said Faksa, who found out Friday from Texas Stars GM Scott White that he would probably be playing tonight.

“I had goosebumps right away when they told me that,” Faksa said. “I am so excited to play tonight.”

Adding to the excitement for the 21-year-old Faksa is that fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr will be playing for the Panthers tonight.

“I am excited for that because Jagr is basically my idol. He is my hockey god,” Faksa said. “I am very excited.”

Faksa, who missed the second half of last season due to shoulder surgery, had a good showing at Dallas training camp. He scored two goals in the Texas Stars season opener last weekend.

“Good defensively, good killing penalties for us. He’s a big body,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s excited, and I am excited to see him play.”

Ruff is juggling his lines around to get Faksa in the lineup as a center and to play Valeri Nichushkin at right wing as he returns after sitting out two games as a healthy scratch.

“I’d like to play [Faksa] in his natural position and to help Val get going I want to put him where he feels most comfortable, and we’ll give him a chance over there on the right side and see if that can help him out,” Ruff said.

Vernon Fiddler could move up the lineup to play wing on the second line with center Jason Spezza and Nichushkin.

The line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp stays intact, and the line of Mattias Janmark, Cody Eakin and Ales Hemsky has been reunited.

“I’ve got lots of options. Nothing is etched in stone,” Ruff said. “If a line struggles, I am ready for anything tonight.”

Kari Lehtonen is expected to make his third consecutive start in goal. Lehtonen has backstopped the Stars to two straight victories, stopping 56 of 61 shots in wins over Edmonton and Tampa Bay. He is 14-8-4 against Florida in his career with a 2.52 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

There are no changes expected on the defense.

Injury notes: no update on McKenzie

*There was no update on forward Curtis McKenzie, who suffered a lower-body injury after being hit from behind by Tampa Bay defenseman Nikita Nesterov in Thursday’s game. McKenzie headed back to Dallas to be evaluated by doctors.

“Still have no update on him. I have no definitive timetable,” Ruff said. “It’s been a tough one to figure out what it is going to take to get him to feel better and what exactly is wrong. It just might take some time.”

*Forward Travis Moen is out with an upper-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day.

Panthers Watch

The Panthers come into tonight’s game with a 3-1-0 record and have allowed just five goals in the four games.

"The goalies have been exceptional when you only allow five goals," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We've played real well defensively. Anytime you give up five goals in four games, it's a team effort. We can always say the defense is playing good, or the goaltender is playing good, but right now it is the group on the ice playing really well defensively, and when you play well defensively you get offensive chances from it.”

Only one lineup change is expected tonight with Shawn Thornton drawing in and Connor Brickley sitting out. Roberto Luongo is the likely starter in goal.

Saturday’s game

Who: Dallas Stars at Florida Panthers

Where: BB&T Center

When: 6:00 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Vernon FiddlerJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Mattias JanmarkCody EakinAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaColton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth

Injured: Travis Moen (upper body), Curtis McKenzie (lower body), Patrick Eaves (lower body)

Panthers projected lineup

Jaromir Jagr - Aleksander Barkov - Jonathan Huberdeau

Brandon Pirri - Nick Bjugstad - Reilly Smith

Jussi Jokinen - Dave Bolland - Vincent Trocheck

Shawn Thornton - Derek MacKenzie - Quinton Howden

Aaron Ekblad - Brian Campbell

Erik Gudbranson - Willie Mitchell

Alex Petrovic - Dmitry Kulikov

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched: Steven Kampfer, Connor Brickley, Dylan Olsen

Injured: None

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 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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