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Morning Skate: Lehtonen in goal, Oleksiak in on defense tonight vs. Jets

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen gets the start in goal tonight as the Dallas Stars take on the Winnipeg Jets at American Airlines Center.

Lehtonen has won his last three starts, stopping 87 of 92 shots for a .946 save percentage. He has solid numbers against the Jets in his career, posting a 5-1-1 mark, 1.96 goals-against average and .945 save percentage.

Tonight’s game is the first of two straight games against teams Central Division for the Stars. The division is the toughest in the league, and the battle for playoff spots and positioning will be intense.

“These are huge games,” said Stars forward Colton Sceviour. “You can see how tight our division is, so winning within our division is going to be huge all season.”

The Stars come into tonight’s game in first place in the division with a 12-4-0 record. The Jets are 8-6-2 and rank fifth in the division.

“I think we’ve got to be ready for their top line. I think those guys have really gone good,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of the Jets. “I think they’ve got some good speed. [Nikolaj] Ehlers can fly for them, and I think we’ve got to be aware of those guys, and then they’ve got a couple guys on the back end that can create offense. [Dustin] Byfuglien can get in on the play, create offense. They’ve got some physical guys. We’ve got some physical guys, so it should be a fun night.”

Stars defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka did not skate this morning and will not play tonight.

“Just a little bit of maintenance,” Ruff said. “Obviously, he’s not going to play, so we kept him off the ice.”

With Jokipakka not playing, Jamie Oleksiak will suit up for his third game of the season. He is expected to skate on the third defense pair with Jordie Benn.

“Well, you have to be a solid defender,” Ruff said of Oleksiak. “You want him to play well defensively, move the puck. That first play out of the zone is a big deal.”

There are no changes expected with the forwards. The line combinations during this morning’s skate were the same as Tuesdays’ game against Toronto.

Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal for Winnipeg. He is 4-5-1 this season with a 2.69 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. The Jets are winless in their past three games (0-2-1), and they expect a stiff challenge from the Stars tonight.

“In all the games that we’ve watched, the games they won or even the game that they lost to Toronto (Tuesday), there were probably ten other goals that could have gone in. They have an incredible offensive group,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “They’re very quick. On turnovers or loose pucks in the defensive zone, they are on top of them and then they have a skill set that makes plays off of those. What you do with the puck is really important tonight, but we’re going to have to be as quick as they are. They’re going to control pieces of the game, and they have in every game that they’ve played. They’re at that level of talent. There will be times that we’ll be in our end, there’s going to be a lot of switch-offs that we’re going to have to pick up very quickly, so we have to be at our best.”

Who: Winnipeg Jets at Dallas Stars

Where: American Airlines Center

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie Benn- Tyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkCody EakinJason Spezza

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaValeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jamie OleksiakJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Patrick Eaves (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Curtis McKenzie (hip)

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka

Andrew Ladd – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault – Mark Scheifele – Nikolaj Ehlers

Chris Thorburn – Adam Lowry – Drew Stafford

Alex Burmistrov – Andrew Copp – Nic Petan

Tobias Enstrom – Dustin Byfuglien

Tyler Myers – Ben Chiarot

Jacob Trouba – Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back).

Scratched: Adam Pardy, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma.

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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