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Morning skate: Lehtonen in goal tonight vs. Wild

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars will go with the hot hand in goal tonight against Minnesota, giving Kari Lehtonen his second straight start and fifth in the past six games.

Lehtonen has won his last four starts, posting a 2.00 goals against average and .939 save percentage during that stretch. For the season, he is 7-1-0 with a 2.45 GAA and .921 save percentage.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff wouldn’t talk about any possible lineup changes, including any of the injured players returning to the lineup.

“Possibly but there’ll be no disclosure,” Ruff said.

But based on this morning’s optional skate, it appears there aren’t any likely changes. Patrick Eaves, who came off injured reserve Thursday, skated late with Travis Moen (upper body) and Curtis McKenzie (hip). Jyrki Jokipakka, who has been resting a nagging lower-body issue, skated this morning but was the last defenseman off the ice, so it appears he could be out for a second straight game.

The Stars 13-4-0 are off to the best 17-game start in franchise history. They are taking on a Minnesota team that is 10-3-2 and has equaled the best 15-game start in Wild franchise history. It’s another good test for the Stars in the ultra-competitive Central Division.

“We know they’re playing pretty well away from the puck. They’ve won three in a row, and I like their back end. I know their goaltender’s been going pretty good for them,” Ruff said. “For us, I think it’s just continue to do the small things right, and we know we’ll be in tough, and it’ll probably be a tight game.”

Tonight’s game wraps up a three-game homestand for the Stars, who are 6-2-0 at American Airlines Center.

Devan Dubnyk will get the start for the Wild. It will be his eighth straight start and his 14th in 16 games this season. Dubnyk has won three straight, posting a 1.63 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.

Defenseman Marco Scandella, who has missed two games due to a family matter, will return tonight. The Wild are expected to dress seven defensemen and eleven forwards against the Stars.

Minnesota coach Mike Yeo sees a big test for his team tonight.

“They’re arguably the most skilled team in the league, and we’ll face a couple of them coming up here,” Yeo said. “It’s the depth of their scoring; their role players are very good for them. Their back end right now and how they’re contributing and factoring into their offense, it’s obviously a very dangerous hockey team. They seem to be scoring goals with an awful lot of ease right now, so it will be a great challenge.”

Who: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars

Where: American Airlines Center

When: 7:00 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus

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, Jyrki Jokipakka

Injured: Travis Moen (upper body), Curtis McKenzie (hip)

Conditioning: Patrik Nemeth

Thomas Vanek – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter

Ryan Carter – Charlie Coyle – Jordan Schroeder

Chris Porter – Erik Haula

Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba

Nate Prosser – Marco Scandella/Christian Folin

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Injured: Justin Fontaine (sprained MCL), Tyler Graovac (sports hernia surgery), Zach Parise (knee)

Scratched: Niklas Backstrom, Brett Bulmer

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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