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Morning Skate: Lehtonen expected in goal vs. Blackhawks

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen is expected to get the start in goal tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. It will be the second straight start for Lehtonen and the first time he has made consecutive starts since late December.

Lehtonen is coming off a strong 36-save performance in the Stars’ 4-3 overtime win at Minnesota Tuesday.

“I saw good goaltending,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “It’s the type of goaltending you expect, and I really like the way he played.”

The Stars held an optional skate this morning, so there were no line rushes. They likely will go with the same lines as last game except for Colton Sceviour replacing Radek Faksa on the fourth line. They’ll likely go with the same defense as well, meaning a fourth straight game with Patrik Nemeth and Jordie Benn skating as the third pair.

The Stars enter tonight’s game three points behind the Central Division-leading Blackhawks with three games in hand.

The Stars will look for a better performance than Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Chicago at American Airlines Center. In that game, the Stars gave up a power play goal, two shorthanded goals, and one four-on-four goal.

“I thought our five-on-five play was good but our special teams play allowed them a lot of energy and allowed them to win the game,” Ruff said.

Stars forward Patrik Sharp and defenseman Johnny Oduya will play in their first regular-season game in Chicago since being acquired by Dallas in the offseason. Sharp played ten seasons with Chicago, and Oduya played three-plus seasons with the Blackhawks. Sharp was part of three Stanley Cup championships in Chicago, and Oduya was part of two.

“You have a quick peek [at the banners] overhead but at the same time you know what you need to do tonight,” Oduya said. “It’s always fun being back, a lot of memories. It’s going to be a good night.”

Both Oduya and Sharp played a preseason game in Chicago back in October, so it’s not their first time back in a Dallas uniform.

“Lucky to play a preseason game here, so that took the weird stuff out of it,” said Sharp, who will play in his 800th NHL game tonight. “I am here to play a hockey game and enjoy the day. I know my dad is having a great time. He thinks he runs the United Center. I see him going around shaking everyone’s hand and seeing old friends from the Hawks, so he is having a great time as well.”

Corey Crawford is expected to get the start in goal tonight for Chicago. Crawford has allowed two goals or fewer in 31 of his 46 starts this season. Rookie forward Artemi Panarin did not skate this morning and will miss his second straight game due to illness. Chicago, which is coming off a 2-0 loss to San Jose on Tuesday, is 4-4-0 over its past eight games.

Who: Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks

Where: United Center

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves

Valeri NichushkinMattias JanmarkPatrick Sharp

Antoine RousselCody EakinAles Hemsky

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Jason Spezza (upper body)

Scratched: Radek Faksa, Jamie Oleksiak, Jyrki Jokipakka

Andrew Shaw - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Richard Panik - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Andrew Desjardins - Phillip Danault - Teuvo Teravainen

Brandon Mashinter - Dennis Rasmussen - Jiri Sekac

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Erik Gustafsson - Brent Seabrook

Trevor Van Riemsdyk - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Injured: Artemi Panarin (illness), Marcus Kruger (wrist)

Scratched: Rob Scuderi

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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