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Morning Skate: Sharp returns, Lehtonen in goal vs. Tampa Bay

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Forward Patrick Sharp will return to the lineup tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at American Airlines Center.

Sharp has missed the past six games with a lower-body injury.

“Patrick is in tonight. He said he is ready to go,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We’ll get him in tonight and see where he is at.”

The Stars didn’t run line rushes this morning, so it’s not clear where Sharp will slot in as far as the forward lines. He did skate on the second power play unit.

“I feel good. I feel great,” Sharp said. “I’m just going to play my normal game, get involved as much as I can, hang onto the puck, shoot it, get to the net and feel my way through the game that way.”

Injured defenseman John Klingberg (lower body) and Jordie Benn (lower body) both skated this morning, but will not play.

“I think they are really close. Really close,” Ruff said. “I was hoping for Klingberg to play tonight but it’s not quite there.”

With Klingberg and Benn still out, the Stars will go with the same six defensemen as last game.

Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight. This will be Lehtonen’s sixth start in the past seven games.

Colton Sceviour will be back in the lineup tonight after sitting out the past three games as a healthy scratch. Brett Ritchie and Travis Moen skated late, so they appear to be the healthy scratches at forward.

The Stars are coming off an ugly 5-2 loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday. Ruff said his talk with the team this morning was about getting back to a strong defensive game.

“My meeting this morning was about where we wanted to start the year and that was improved play away from the puck. I said I want to finish the year the same way,” Ruff said. “We’ll go back to square one and I want us back above and I don’t want us waiting on the wrong side of the puck. I want the other team to have to go through us. If there are some situations in the game that call for us taking some risks and gamble, I will let you know when.

“This is the time of the year that players are looking for goals and assists and that leads to not good enough play. We had that meeting and I think it is an important part of our game. When our passion for defending is there, we can be as good as anybody in this league and we can be the best.”

Ben Bishop will get the start in goal tonight for Tampa Bay. He is 29-18-4 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. Forward Cedric Paquette (lower body) will be a game-time decision. Tampa Bay comes into tonight’s game with four losses in the past five games (1-3-1), including a 4-1 loss at Toronto on Tuesday.

Who: Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars

Where: American Airlines Center

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Here are lines and defense pairs based on Wednesday’s practice.

Jamie Benn
Cody EakinPatrick Eaves

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaTyler Seguin

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerPatrick Sharp

Patrik Nemeth
Alex Goligoski

Johnny OduyaStephen Johns

Kris RussellJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

John Klingberg (lower body), Jordie Benn (lower body), Mattias Janmark (upper body), Jason Demers (shoulder)

Scratched: Brett Ritchie, Travis Moen

Alex Killorn – Steven Stamkos – Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Ryan Callahan

J.T. Brown – Brian Boyle – Mike Blunden

Erik Condra – Vladislav Namestnikov - Jonathan Marchessault

Anton Stralman – Victor Hedman

Jason Garrison – Andrej Sustr

Matt Carle – Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured: Valtteri Filppula (upper body), Mattias Ohlund (knee), Cedric Paquette (lower body)

Scratched: Braydon Coburn

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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