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Morning Skate: Lehtonen In Goal vs. Hurricanes

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen will get his second consecutive start when the Dallas Stars take on the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at PNC Arena. Lehtonen is coming off a strong 36-save effort in Tuesday’s 5-3 win at Boston.

“[I liked] the fight, the battle,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Lehtonen’s performance against the Bruins. “We gave up a lot of shots. We gave up the shots you’d like to give up when you are trying to find your legs and get going. And after the second [goal] went in he fought hard to keep us in the game and that’s all you ask for. He gave us a couple of big saves at key times.”

This will be the sixth start of the season for Lehtonen, who is 4-1-0 with a 3.00 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. Antti Niemi has started eight games. Ruff said the two-goalie system is still a work in progress that the coaching staff takes day by day.

“We’re still waiting to see with this trial and error situation with the goaltenders,” Ruff said. “I’ve just told them I want them both to play well. The reward for if you play well is you are going to play. We have a schedule outlined for back-to-backs and the tough part of the schedule, but that can change. The guy that is playing well, you want to keep him playing. We’ll see if he can build off that performance in Boston and we will move on from there.”

There are no lineup changes expected among the forwards and defensemen. The Stars will go with the same group they rolled out in Tuesday’s win in Boston.

Ales Hemsky, who has been battling through some hip issues, will not play for a second straight game.

“He has struggled with coming back (from offseason hip surgery),” Ruff said. “He’s had some hip issues, more than Jamie [Benn] has had. When you are not skating, it is a tough game to play.”

Jamie Oleksiak and Patrick Nemeth will sit out on defense. This will be the 12th healthy scratch in 14 games for both Oleksiak and Nemeth.

The Stars (10-3-0) come into tonight’s game having allowed three goals or more in six straight games. The Stars have some ups and downs on the team defense front recently, but Ruff sees progress.

“It’s trying to be consistent, going to the right spots and doing your job when you are back in your own end,” Ruff said. “We had a couple of missed assignments in Toronto, which really hurt us defensively. I thought we cleaned up those missed assignments in Boston, and I think we are trending in the direction we need to go. We’ll see what tonight brings us.”

The Stars take on a Carolina team that started the season 2-6-0 but won three straight before losing to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

“They scare me,” Ruff said. “I watched their chances from the last game, and they work hard for them. Any time you play against a couple of Staals, you’ve got big bodies who are strong below the goal line and strong coming out from below the goal line. They’ve got some young speed. They’ve got a young backend, and they’re hoping their young guys mature on the backend and become a big part of their team.”

Eddie Lack is the expected starter in goal tonight for Carolina, which is 5-7-0. Lack is 1-2-0 with a 3.61 goals-against average and .853 save percentage this season. He hasn’t had much success against the Stars, posting a 0-2-1 mark with a 3.01 GAA and .897 save percentage but the numbers Carolina coach Bill Peters looked at were Cam Ward’s against Ottawa, which is the opponent for the Hurricanes on Saturday. Ward is 13-7-2 vs. the Senators with a 2.38 GAA and .922 save percentage.

“We knew both goaltenders were going to play,” Peters said. “You look at the head-to-head stats, Cam Ward has very good numbers against Ottawa historically throughout his career. And when you do this, Eddie doesn’t have a big sample size against anybody. We are comfortable with both goalies. We knew we were going to play them each one game here on the weekend, and we made the decision to go with Eddie. It is that simple.”

Who: Dallas Stars at Carolina Hurricanes

Where: PNC Arena

When: 6:00 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennTyler SeguinJason Spezza

Mattias JanmarkCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Devin ShoreRadek FaksaValeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

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

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak

Eric Staal - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm

Nathan Gerbe - Victor Rask - Kris Versteeg

Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Chris Terry

Brock McGinn - Jay McClement - Andrej Nestrasil

Ron Hainsey - Justin Faulk

John-Michael Liles - Brett Pesce

Noah Hanifin - Ryan Murphy

Eddie Lack

Cam Ward

Scratched: Michal Jordan, Brad Malone

Injured: James Wisniewski (knee)

Conditioning: Joakim Nordstrom

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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