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Morning Skate: Lehtonen expected in goal as Stars take on Ducks

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen is the expected starter in goal tonight as the Dallas Stars return to action after a five-day break, taking on the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.

Coach Lindy Ruff expects his team to have plenty of energy coming into tonight’s game, but since the Stars haven’t played since Saturday, there is a concern about some rust.

“I think it is your biggest worry coming off that many days off is that the hands and feet are working together,” Ruff said. “The one-on-one compete is the area that concerns me the most and we’ve got to be ready right off the bat, but it is something you worry about.”

Tonight’s game begins a three-game road trip for the Stars, who have dropped five straight games away from home (0-3-2).

“At home, we’ve shut it down pretty good, but on the road these last four or five, we’ve given up way too many goals,” Ruff said. “We’ve played pretty loose through the neutral zone, so it is something we are looking to vastly improve.”

The Stars will get two injured players back for tonight’s game. Ales Hemsky, who has missed six games with a lower-body injury, will return and is expected to skate on the second line with Jason Spezza and Mattias Janmark.

Jordie Benn will be back in the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury. He is expected skate on the third defense pair with Jyrki Jokipakka.

Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth are the expected the scratches on defense. Colton Sceviour will be the odd man out at forward.

The Stars will take on an Anaheim team that has won six of its past nine games (6-2-1). Anaheim has struggled to score this season, averaging a league-low 1.90 goals per game, but they’ve scored three or more goals in three of their past five games including Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Ottawa. On the other side of the equation, they’ve allowed just 14 goals over the past nine games.

“Overall, they are not scoring a lot, but they are defending really well,” Ruff said. “They are getting the opportunities, but for whatever reason they are not able to put the puck in the back of the net on a consistent basis. I think at any time they could snap out of it. It could happen at any moment. They have gone through one heck of a dry spell. I don’t think it will last.”

Frederik Andersen is expected to get the start in goal tonight for Anaheim. He stopped 24 shots in Anaheim’s 4-1 win over Ottawa Wednesday, his first start since January 1. The Ducks are 3-2-0 in the first five games of a season-long eight-game homestand. They expected a big test from well-rested Dallas team.

“It’s certainly going to be a challenge,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau told the team’s official site. “You’re taking the highest scoring team and seeing how you fare against them. They’re a team that’s had five days off, so they’re well-rested after a mini slump. They’re going to play their best.”

Who: Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks

Where: Honda Center

Time: 9:00 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinValeri Nichushkin

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Injured: None

Scratched: Colton Sceviour, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth

Rickard Rakell - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Carl Hagelin - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg

Shawn Horcoff - Nate Thompson - Andrew Cogliano

Patrick Maroon - Mike Santorelli - Chris Stewart

Sami Vatanen - Kevin Bieksa

Hampus Lindholm - Josh Manson

Clayton Stoner-Shea Theodore

Frederik Andersen

John Gibson

Injured: Simon Despres (concussion symptoms), Cam Fowler (knee)

Scratched: Jiri Sekac, Korbinian Holzer

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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