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Morning Skate: Russell in, Spezza out, Dickinson to make NHL debut vs. Avalanche

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars will do some lineup juggling as they take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight at American Airlines Center.

Center Jason Spezza joined the list of Dallas forwards on the injured list. He will be out tonight due to illness.

“We got an early-morning call, about six in the morning, that he was up sick all night,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “There’s no chance he’s going to play. Even if he does feel a little bit better, it doesn’t make any sense to play him.”

That left the Stars with only 11 healthy forwards, so they recalled center Jason Dickinson on an emergency basis from the Texas Stars of the AHL. Dickinson, a first-round pick (29th overall) in 2013, ranks sixth among AHL rookies in scoring with 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists) in 69 games. He’ll make his NHL debut tonight.

“It doesn’t give him a lot of time to think about it,” Ruff said. “It’s an opportunity, gets to play his first NHL game. We know he’ll be excited. Like what he did in camp, how well he played, even in the preseason games, so it’ll be exciting to see him play.”

Also coming into the lineup tonight will be Curtis McKenzie. He was called up from Texas on Wednesday with the Stars already missing Patrick Eaves, Mattias Janmark, Brett Ritchie and Tyler Seguin up front.

“It’s a special time of the year to be here,” said McKenzie, who played two games with Dallas earlier this season. “All you want to do is help to contribute to win. The team has worked so hard all year to get to this point. You want to be a positive note to help them make that final push.”

As for his lines, Ruff indicated he would keep the Jamie Benn-Cody Eakin-Patrick Sharp and Antoine Roussel-Radek Faksa-Ales Hemsky lines together. How he’ll work Dickinson and McKenzie into the mix is still up in the air.

“There’s some thought this morning that Dickinson and McKenzie played together and played really well together down there, so there’s some thought to trying to keep them together,” Ruff said. “We could keep Dickinson right between Val [Nichushkin] and [Colton] Sceviour where Spezz was at [practice] yesterday.

“I think there’s an opportunity even inside the game if it doesn’t look like we got much going on, we can try some things, but I’d like to leave the top two lines that have been playing with the Faksa line and the Eakin line, which has been going pretty good, leaving them together. After that we can see what works for us.”

On defense, Kris Russell will be back in the lineup tonight after missing the past seven games with a foot injury. There were no defense pairs run at the skate this morning, so we’ll have to wait until warm-ups to see what Ruff is thinking there.

Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight.

The Stars will have a chance to clinch the Central Division and the top seed in the Western Conference with a win over Colorado and a St. Louis regulation loss to Chicago.

“Everyone here wants to win the conference and the division, but the main thing is to get ready for the playoffs,” said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. “Play the game where we feel comfortable with the defensive part of the game and clean up those mistakes.”

Calvin Pickard will get the start in goal for the Avalanche. Colorado, which was eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday, has lost four straight games. Avalanche coach Patrick Roy missed this morning’s skate due to illness but he is expected to be behind the bench for tonight’s game.

Who: Colorado Avalanche 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 BennCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Valeri NichushkinJason DickinsonColton Sceviour

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerCurtis McKenzie

Johnny Oduya
Stephen Johns

Kris RussellAlex Goligoski

Jordie BennJohn Klingberg

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Jason Spezza (illness), Patrick Eaves (mid-body), Mattias Janmark (upper body), Tyler Seguin (Achilles), Jason Demers (shoulder), Brett Ritchie (lower body)

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth

Mikael Boedker – Matt Duchene – Mikhail Grigorenko

Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Gabriel Landeskog

Shawn Matthias – John Mitchell – Jarome Iginla

Jack Skille – Andrew Agozzino – Cody McLeod

Nick Holden – Erik Johnson

Francois Beauchemin – Tyson Barrie

Nikita Zadorov – Chris Bigras

Calvin Pickard

Semyon Varlamov

Injured: Eric Gelinas (elbow), Nathan MacKinnon (knee), Brad Stuart (back), Jesse Winchester (concussion).

Scratched: Andrew Bodnarchuk, Andreas Martinsen, Zach Redmond.

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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