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Morning Skate: Lehtonen in goal, Sharp won't play vs. Kings

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Coming off big games against Chicago and St. Louis over the weekend, the Dallas Stars face another big test tonight when they take on the Los Angeles Kings at American Airlines Center.

The Kings, who are coming off an impressive 5-0 win in Chicago Monday night, lead the Pacific Division and are 8-2-1 over their past eleven games.

“I expect a heck of a hockey game,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We expected that the last few games and that’s what we’ve seen. They’re a good team; they’re a heavy team. They won a heck of a game last night, and we know we have our hands full.”

The Stars picked up three of four points in the games against division rivals Chicago and St. Louis over the weekend. The Stars are tied with St. Louis at 91 points, but hold the top spot in both the Central Division and Western Conference based on fewer games played and the regulation/wins (ROW) tiebreaker.

“These are hard games but in the end, it is fun playing against those teams,” said Stars forward Ales Hemsky. “It’s a good test for us before the playoffs. If we can play the way we did the last couple games against those big teams and get better, we’ll be ready.”

It appears the Stars will go with the same lineup as Saturday’s game against St. Louis, except for a change in goal. Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so he is expected to be in net tonight. This will be Lehtonen’s fifth start in the past six games.

The Stars held an optional skate this morning, so there were no line rushes. But the Stars likely will go with the same lines and defense pairs as last game.

Patrick Sharp (lower body), John Klingberg (lower body) and Jordie Benn (lower body) all skated this morning. Sharp, who practiced Monday, is the closest to a return, but he won’t go tonight.

“He’s real close. Won’t play tonight,” Ruff said.

Klingberg and Benn, who skated late with Sharp, still aren’t ready to return. Mattias Janmark, who is out with an upper-body injury, did not skate with the team this morning.

Colton Sceviour is the expected healthy scratch.

The Kings did not skate this morning after playing at Chicago last night. The Kings defeated the Blackhawks 5-0 to push their points streak to four games (3-0-1). Jonathan Quick played in goal last night and stopped 32 shots for his 41st career shutout, a new record for U.S.-born goaltenders. It’s not known who will be play in goal tonight for the Kings. Los Angeles is 8-1-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

Who: Los Angeles Kings 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 BennCody EakinPatrick Eaves

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaTyler Seguin

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerBrett Ritchie

Kris Russell
Alex Goligoski

Johnny OduyaStephen Johns

Patrik NemethJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Patrick Sharp (lower body), John Klingberg (lower body), Jordie Benn (lower body), Mattias Janmark (upper body), Jason Demers (shoulder)

Scratched: Colton Sceviour

Milan Lucic – Anze Kopitar – Kris Versteeg

Dwight King – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli

Tanner Pearson – Vincent Lecavalier – Dustin Brown

Kyle Clifford – Nick Shore – Trevor Lewis

Rob Scuderi – Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin – Alec Martinez

Brayden McNabb – Luke Schenn

Jhonas Enroth

Jonathan Quick

Injured: Marian Gaborik (lower body), Matt Greene (upper body), Jordan Nolan (undisclosed)

Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Jamie McBain

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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