Kari Lehtonen will make his first start of the season tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Edmonton Oilers at American Airlines Center.
It will be Lehtonen’s first regular-season start since April 3, when he surrendered six goals on 19 shots in a loss to St. Louis. He didn’t play the final four games of last season as Jhonas Enroth manned the net for Dallas. Lehtonen has served as a backup to Antti Niemi the first two games this season.
“Just [want] to really see him play well,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Lehtonen. “I think he’s – like I said earlier – he’s been working on some changes in his game. For me, it’s getting used to those changes.”
The Stars rolled out the same forward lines used in Monday’s practice. Patrick Eaves skated on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Jason Spezza centered Antoine Roussel and Patrick Sharp. Cody Eakin skated with Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky. On the fourth line, Colton Sceviour took line rushes with Vernon Fiddler and Travis Moen, indicating that Valeri Nichushkin will be a healthy scratch.
Ruff talked about Nichushkin’s struggles after Monday’s practice and talked about them again after Tuesday morning’s skate.
“I think we need more,” Ruff said. “We’re in a different place right now and I think when he’s on the ice, he’s been thinking too much. I think he’s been a second slow with some of his decisions. For me, he’s working. Inside of his shift, he’s working but I think some of the processing and getting to the right place, there hasn’t been even through the preseason games, he hasn’t seen quite to the pace that I’ve needed him. There is no doubt in my mind that we can get him there and I think sometimes a night off is the best thing.”
There were no changes in the defense pairs at the morning skate and it appears that Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak both will sit out as healthy scratches for a third straight game.
Oilers watch: Taylor Hall questionable, Nilsson in goal
The Oilers could be missing one of their top forwards tonight. Taylor Hall didn’t skate this morning and is questionable due to illness. The Oilers are already missing another top forward in Jordan Eberle, who is out with a shoulder injury.
“Well, there’s a fair size void without Jordan and Taylor involved in the lineup, but we’ll have to be strong defensively,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “You can’t give them any gifts and let the game get away on us. And when we do get our opportunities, some of the more unusual suspects have to step up and be involved in the offense. We worked hard on it yesterday.”
The Oilers have scored just one goal in two games this season and that one came in the season-opener against St. Louis when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo shot the puck into his own net off a teammate. In other words, the Oilers have yet to shoot a puck into the opposition’s net.
Anders Nilsson will get the start in goal tonight for the Oilers. Nilsson, who played three seasons for the New York Islanders, spent last season in the KHL, where he posted a 1.71 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.
“Anders has played very well in exhibition season, our team played well around him.” McLellan said. “There’s no guarantee that will happen again, but we believe it can. Players believe it can and Anders believes it can, so we’re excited about starting him tonight. Looking forward to his game.”
Quotable: Ales Hemsky on playing his former team, the Oilers
“It’s always special. Last year, I was a little more nervous but after one year you kind of settle down and it is just another game. I still have a lot of friends in the city and on the team. It will be fun.”
Who: Edmonton Oilers at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Valeri Nichushkin, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak
Oilers projected lineup
Benoit Pouliot – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Teddy Purcell
Lauri Korpikoski – Connor McDavid – Nail Yakupov
Rob Klinkhammer – Anton Lander – Anton Slepyshev
Matt Hendricks – Mark Letestu – Luke Gazdic
Oscar Klefbom – Justin Schultz
Andrej Sekera – Mark Fayne
Brandon Davidson – Eric Gryba
Injured: Jordan Eberle (shoulder), Taylor Hall (illness)
Scratched: Griffin Reinhart
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.