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Morning Skate: Lehtonen gets the start vs. Capitals

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen is expected to get the start tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center. It will be the tenth start for Lehtonen. Antti Niemi has started ten games as well for the Stars.

Lehtonen has good career numbers against Washington, posting a 15-6-2 record with a 2.58 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

The Stars held an optional skate in Washington Thursday morning, so there were no line rushes. But they are expected to go with the same forward lines and defense pairs used in Tuesday’s 3-1 win at Buffalo.

The Stars come into tonight’s game the number one ranked offense in the NHL, averaging 3.58 goals per game. But they’ll be facing a stingy Washington team that is ranked fifth in goals against at 2.24 per game and second in shots against at 25.2 per game.

“It is getting tough to score. You can hear everyone complaining about how tough it is to score,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Teams are doing a really good job of packing it inside, and you are somehow going to have to get shots through for those second opportunities. Those second opportunities are tough to get because physically down low a lot of teams have you outnumbered. It’s just repeat the right things, and sooner or later you’ll get a bounce, the puck will end up in the right place, and you’ve got to put it away.”

Tonight’s game wraps up a two-game road trip for the Stars, who have won four straight away from home and eight of their past nine road games.

“We were a good road team last year too,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We just keep things simple and when we play that way it just makes it easier for us.”

The Stars have won seven straight games against the Capitals, including the past four in Washington.

The Capitals didn’t skate Thursday morning after playing Wednesday night in Detroit, where they won 2-1 in overtime. The Capitals, who are 4-1-1 in their past six games, improved to 12-4-1 on the season.

Tonight, they’ll be facing one of the league’s top teams in Dallas while playing on the second night of a back-to-back.

“There are no excuses,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told the team’s official site. “We‘ve just got to go in there and just empty the tanks [Thursday]. They’ve got a high-octane type of team, and they want to get into a track meet. We’ve just got to make sure we’re managing pucks, we’re defending well, and we’re committed to playing on both sides. If you don’t, then a team like Dallas can light you up.”

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin needs one goal to surpass Sergei Fedorov as the NHL’s all-time leading Russian-born goal scorer. Fedorov and Ovechkin are tied at 483 goals.

Who: Dallas Stars at Washington Capitals

Where: Verizon Center

When: 6:00 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinValeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak

Injured: None

Conditioning: Patrik Nemeth

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Andre Burakovsky

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Justin Williams

Brooks Laich - Michael Latta - Tom Wilson

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Stanislav Galiev

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)

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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