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Morning Skate: Lehtonen in goal as Stars look to even series vs. Blues

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen is expected to get the start in goal tonight as the Dallas Stars try to even their second-round playoff series with the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.

The Stars will be looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s 6-1 loss that left them down 2-1 in the series. A loss is a loss, but the Stars were embarrassed with their effort in Game 3.

“I thought we embarrassed ourselves with some of our play. The result is the same, but the pain is greater,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “And maybe we needed that.”

“Hundred percent [it provides motivation],” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “We didn't bring out the effort that we wanted, especially in the playoffs when it's the most important time of the year. We got embarrassed, they embarrassed us. We've got a lot to work for tonight.”

Despite the ugly Game 3 loss, a Stars win tonight, and the series has an entirely different look. It will be down to a best-of-three with the Stars having home-ice advantage. Of course, a loss and things start to look tough.

Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars, so it appears he will get the start in goal tonight. Lehtonen was pulled in Game 2 after allowing three goals on five shots. He relieved Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 and stopped 24 of 27 shots.

The Stars could be making a couple of changes at forward. Valeri Nichushkin and Brett Ritchie skated on lines this morning. Nichushkin was a healthy scratch the last game. Ritchie, who was called up from the AHL after the Texas Stars’ season came to an end, would be making his NHL playoff debut.

“I obviously got a pretty good view of it up top, so nothing out of the ordinary. I am going to bring my game,” Ritchie said. “I think my style could probably help.”

“We saw him in a game against St. Louis earlier (in the regular season) where he’s a big man and when’s skating he can dominate a game,” Ruff said. “And he’s got a bullet for a shot, so if we can find an area to get him inside and he’s big enough to get to the net, I think. With this defense we are playing against, we’ve had trouble getting inside. We’re dressing as big as we can, and we’ve got to get inside.”

Travis Moen was off the ice early, so he appears to be an option tonight as well. The Stars could skate 13 forwards and make a game-time decision.

Curtis McKenzie, who played in Game 3, is expected to be a scratch at forward. Tyler Seguin (lower body) and Patrick Eaves (leg) remain out with injury.

No changes are expected on defense. Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak are the expected scratches on defense.

With the Texas Stars finished for the season, the Dallas Stars recalled more players from their AHL club on Thursday. Forwards Jason Dickinson, Brendan Ranford, Justin Dowling and defenseman Julius Honka will all join Dallas as extra players.

It appears the Blues will go with the same lineup as Game 3 as they try to take a 3-1 lead in the series. But they know they will get a big response from the Stars, who weren’t happy with their performance in Game 3 and will be desperate to tie the series.

“We need the same effort or better,” said Blues captain David Backes. “They're going to be a hungry team. They're going to respond well. We need to match it or better it. We know we have a tall task tonight. We need 20 guys on that same page for 60 minutes to have success.”

Blues forward Ryan Reaves’ blowing a kiss towards the Dallas bench in Game 3 continues to get some attention. Reaves was asked Thursday about Stars captain Jamie Benn saying Dallas players won’t forget the kiss as the series moves along.

“I don't know, did he catch it and put it in his pocket?” Reaves said. “Sure, if he wants to remember it, I don't know ... I don't know why that's such a big deal to him.”

Who: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues

Where: Scottrade Center

When: 7:00 p.m.


Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerBrett Ritchie

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaStephen Johns

Kris RussellJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Tyler Seguin (lower body), Patrick Eaves (leg)

Scratched: Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Travis Moen, Curtis McKenzie, Jack Campbell, Jason Dickinson, Julius Honka, Brendan Ranford, Justin Dowling

Jaden Schwartz – Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Alex Steen – Paul Stastny – Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri – Patrik Berglund – David Backes

Scottie Upshall – Kyle Brodziak – Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson – Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson – Colton Parayko

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Injured: None

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Dmitrij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi, Steve Ott, Petteri Lindbohm, Chris Butler, Peter Harrold, Ty Rattie, Anders Nilsson

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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