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Morning Skate: Projected lineups, notes for Stars vs. Blue Jackets

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen is expected to get the start in goal tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Lehtonen is coming off a 22-save shutout in the Stars’ 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues Sunday at American Airlines Center.

The Stars sit at the top of the NHL standings with a 27-7-3 record (57 points). They are riding a 4-0-1 points streak that they’ve put together against Montreal, Minnesota, Chicago and in back-to-back games against St. Louis. Those teams all rank in the top nine in the NHL standings. Tuesday, they face a struggling Columbus team that ranks dead last in the NHL with a 13-22-3 record (29 points).

“Sometimes these games are tougher to play, and I think they are,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Sometimes there is a looseness to their game where you can get invited into a little bit more of a chance game. We just want to concentrate on playing our game - do the right thing, put the puck in the right place and make them come through us.”

The Stars defeated the Blue Jackets, 5-1, in Dallas on Dec. 15, but Ruff wasn’t happy with the team’s performance in that game, particularly the start. Ruff said he’s put that game behind him, but the players remember it.

“I remember that was the game that we won, and the coach wasn’t very happy afterward,” said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. “That’s a sign of good coaching, good team. Playing in this building, it’s a tough team. They play very hard, and you have to respect your opponent at all times. We want to get off to a much better start than the last time we played the Blue Jackets and try to win another game.”

The Stars are expected to go with the same group of forwards and defensemen used in Sunday’s game against St. Louis. Forward Travis Moen will get a second straight game after being a healthy scratch in 16 of the previous 18 games.

“We’ve got a great group, and I try to personally address all the players if they are being scratched all of a sudden or they are not in,” Ruff said. “[Moen] has been the consummate pro through everything. Understand that I have the best dilemma any coach has. I have a healthy group, and I have a group that is playing well. I’ve got every player playing the game we need them to play. There are some pieces that can be used in different games, and I’ll have to take out different pieces to utilize them. If we need more physical presence, somebody has to come out, and Travis goes in. If we think we need skill or a penalty killer, we can go that direction too.”

Patrick Eaves will be the scratch at forward. Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth are the expected scratches on defense.

Curtis McElhinney will get the start in goal tonight for Columbus. He is 1-6-2 this season with a 3.29 goals-against average and .885 save percentage. He played the third period in the Blue Jackets’ 5-1 loss at Dallas on Dec. 15, stopping six of seven shots. Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, who has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury, will return tonight. Columbus has lost three straight games and is 2-6-2 in its past ten.

Who: Dallas Stars at Columbus Blue Jackets

Where: Nationwide Arena

When: 6:00 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinColton Sceviour

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerValeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Patrick Eaves, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth

Injured: None

Boone Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson

Scott Hartnell – Alexander Wennberg – Brandon Saad

Matt Calvert – William Karlsson – Nick Foligno

Gregory Campbell – Ryan Johansen – Rene Bourque

Jack Johnson – Ryan Murray

Fedor Tyutin – Dalton Prout

Justin Falk – Kevin Connauton

Curtis McElhinney

Joonas Korpisalo

Scratched: David Clarkson, Jared Boll, Andrew Bodnarchuk

Injured: Cody Goloubef (broken jaw), Markus Hannikainen (shoulder), Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), David Savard (lower body)

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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