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Morning Skate: Lehtonen in goal tonight vs. Columbus

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at American Airlines Center.

Lehtonen hasn’t played since last Tuesday when he was pulled late in the third period after allowing five goals in the Stars’ 6-5 victory over Carolina.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff will make some lineup changes – one among the forwards and one among the defensemen – for tonight’s game. On defense, Patrik Nemeth will skate on the third pair with Jordie Benn. Nemeth has been a healthy scratch the past two games following a stretch where he played in five of six games. Jamie Oleksiak and Jyrki Jokipakka - who have also been rotating in as the sixth defensemen – will sit out as healthy scratches tonight.

“There’s not one of them that wants to sit out, I can tell you that,” Ruff said of Nemeth, Oleksiak and Jokipakka. “Right now, it’s a case where I’m trying to give each guy a little bit of ice time. I know there’s frustration there, which I know there’s going to be. There’s no way of me avoiding that frustration. The only way I avoid frustration is play one guy and leave two guys out.”

As for the forwards, Travis Moen will be in tonight on the fourth line with Vernon Fiddler and Ales Hemsky. Moen has been a healthy scratch 11 of the past 12 games. Before that, he missed 14 games with an injury.

“I just think that he can add a physical presence,” Ruff said. “We’ve played well when [Moen] has been in the lineup and he’s worked incredibly hard. I just feel we’ve got some players that are struggling on the offensive side, and it’s no different with him as the defensemen. I want to get him in and play him and see if he can add a little bit on the physical side for us.”

The Stars are also juggling things around on the power play, which has struggled recently. Patrick Sharp will move back into the slot position on the top unit with Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg.

“Responsibility changes a little bit, but the mentality stays the same,” Sharp said. “Wherever Lindy puts me in the lineup, I want to make sure I do my job. I am just going to go out there and try to make whatever unit I am on successful, score some goals and be a difference in the game.”

The power play has failed to score in six of the past seven games and is 5-39 (12.8 percent) over the past 12 games.

“It needs to get quicker and we need to get more attack,” said Ruff. “Beginning of the year, we were getting pucks inside, we were getting people inside, we were looking for bounces and redirections and second opportunities. Right now, we’re a little bit of a power play that’s looking for the perfect play again.”

The Stars will be looking to bounce back from Saturday’s 3-0 loss at St. Louis. The Stars have yet to lose consecutive games this season.

“There’s a sense of urgency inside our locker room and our organization. We know how competitive the league is, especially our division and we can’t afford to have any bad runs,” Sharp said. “Not very happy with the way we played the last game, but that is behind us, and we are ready to play well at home.”

Just a few Columbus players skated this morning. The Blue Jackets played last night, falling 2-1 to Tampa Bay in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have lost four straight games (0-2-2) and are 1-4-3 in their past eight games. Curtis McElhinney, who is winless in seven decisions (0-5-2) is the likely starter in goal.

Who: Columbus Blue Jackets 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 BennTyler SeguinValeri Nichushkin

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerAles Hemsky

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak, Colton Sceviour

Injured: None

Boone Jenner – Ryan Johansen – Brandon Saad

Scott Hartnell – Alexander Wennberg – Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert – Brandon Dubinsky – Nick Foligno

Gregory Campbell – William Karlsson – David Clarkson

David Savard - Andrew Bodnarchuk

Jack Johnson - Ryan Murray

Fedor Tyutin – Kevin Connauton

Curtis McElhinney

Joonas Korpisalo

Scratched: Jared Boll, Dalton Prout

Injured: Sergei Bobrovsky (lower body), Rene Bourque (upper body), Cody Goloubef (jaw), Markus Hannikainen (shoulder)

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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