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Morning skate: Lehtonen in goal tonight vs. Hurricanes

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars kick off a two-game homestand tonight when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes at American Airlines Center.

Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars, indicating he will get the start in goal. It will be the second start in three games for Lehtonen since he returned from an upper body injury. Lehtonen stopped 14 of 16 shots in Thursday’s 4-2 win at Vancouver. He is 10-1-0 this season with a 2.37 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff tweaked his lines at this morning’s skate. The top two lines stayed the same, but the third line had a different look with Patrick Sharp skating at left wing, Cody Eakin at center and Ales Hemsky on the right side. Sharp hasn’t seen any time at left wing this season but has played there in the past.

“He said to me that he likes playing left wing sometimes more than playing right wing,” Ruff said. “So, it gets to open up a little bit more of the shooting and playmaking, and I think that when you can use a player in any of those positions, it just gives you more options.”

The fourth line consisted of Antoine Roussel, Vernon Fiddler and Colton Sceviour. Travis Moen skated late and is the expected scratch at forward.

The Stars will go with the same defense pairs as the last game. Jyrki Jokipakka will sit out as a healthy scratch. Jason Demers took part in the morning skate, but will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

The power play units are expected to have different looks tonight. Sharp skated this morning on the point with the second unit with Alex Goligoski, Cody Eakin, Ales Hemsky and Valeri Nichushkin. Patrick Eaves skated on the top unit with Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg.

“We’re trying to utilize [Sharp] where he’s been the most effective and that second power play shooting from up top without Demers there is something that we need,” Ruff said. “That first unit, I think if we get Patty Eaves around the front of the net again, that was real effective for us too. So I’m looking for that little switch to try to make both units more effective, knowing that [Sharp] can easily go back with the first unit.”

The Stars are coming off a four-game road trip that saw them go 2-0-2. The past two times they came off four-game road trips, they lost the first game home, falling to Florida (6-2) and Toronto (3-2). The Stars are hoping getting both Saturday and Sunday off and then a good practice in on Monday will help this time around.

“Recovery and spend time with your family,” Sharp said. “It was a long road trip, and I thought we played OK. We got a little tired at the end with some long nights. I thought we recovered well, had a great practice yesterday and we are ready to go tonight.”

Cam Ward is the expected starter in goal for the Hurricanes, who come into tonight’s game with two straight wins including a victory over Montreal, the top team in the Eastern Conference. Tonight, they’ll get the top team in the league in the Stars.

“We’ve got to manage the puck properly and be ready to go right off the hop,” said Hurricanes coach Bill Peters. “They’ve got some guys that are dangerous, and they’re going to create some chances. We got to make sure that we’re out there looking for our opportunities to generate offense too. I want to make sure we’re aggressive enough just to solely defend.”

Who: Carolina Hurricanes 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

Patrick SharpCody EakinAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJordie Benn

Patrik NemethJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Jason Demers (upper body)

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Travis Moen

Kris Versteeg – Eric Staal – Elias Lindholm

Joakim Nordstrom – Jordan Staal – Andrej Nestrasil

Jeff Skinner – Victor Rask – Phil Di Giuseppe

Brad Malone – Jay McClement – Chris Terry

Ron Hainsey – Justin Faulk

John-Michael Liles – Brett Pesce

Noah Hanifin – Jaccob Slavin

Cam Ward

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Michal Jordan, Riley Nash.

Injured: Nathan Gerbe (ankle), James Wisniewski (knee).

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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