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Morning Skate: Stars look for strong start against Flames

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars will be looking for a strong start tonight when they take on the Calgary Flames at American Airlines Center.

The Stars are coming off a slow start in Tuesday’s 5-1 win over Columbus that left head coach Lindy Ruff expressing some frustration after the game. Ruff called it a lack of mental focus, which led to some lackluster execution. He tried to address that this morning.

“We’ve tried a little different procedure this morning, changed up meetings and tightened up our morning routine a little bit, focused on what we’re going to do in those first ten minutes and see if we can execute,” Ruff said. “I think we all realize we were disappointed in where we were at in our first ten minutes the other night. Some of the stuff we did with the puck was some of the stuff that leads to the other team getting a little edge on you, so we’re going to clean that up.”

The Stars will take on a Calgary team that is on a roll right now. The Flames have won six straight games and averaging 3.83 goals per game during the run.

“I think we have to play our game. We talked about a lot of things in our game that we were worried about,” said Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya. “We need to respect our opponent and be a little bit more responsible. We need to play a good team game, and that's what we're looking to do. We have to play good defensively and have a good structure. We know we can score goals. We need to have a good start.”

Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal tonight. Lehtonen is coming off an impressive 34-save effort in Tuesday’s 5-1 victory over Columbus. Lehtonen is 11-1-0 this season with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.

The Stars will make one lineup change tonight. Colton Sceviour will be back in at forward after sitting out the last game as a healthy scratch, and Travis Moen will sit out. The Stars will go with the same line combinations that finished the last game. Cody Eakin centered Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin this morning, and Jason Spezza centered Valeri Nichushkin and Patrick Sharp. Mattias Janmark skated as a center this morning with Antoine Roussel and Ales Hemsky on his wings. The fourth line had Vernon Fiddler centering Sceviour and Patrick Eaves.

There will be no changes on defense. Patrik Nemeth will play a second straight game. Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak will be the scratches on defense.

Karri Ramo will get the start in goal tonight for the Flames (14-14-2), who come into tonight’s game with a perfect 6-0-0 record in December. The Flames, who got off to a horrible start, have climbed right back into the playoff picture in the Pacific Division. Their winning streak started with a 4-3 win over Dallas on Dec. 1 when they overcame a 3-0 third-period deficit and topped the Stars in a shootout.

“I think that was a turnaround win for us,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “The guys competed hard but having said this, I think tonight is a totally different challenge. This is a team that is very dangerous offensively, starting from their back end looking at the entire lineup; very, very dangerous offensively, so we’ll have to make sure that we don’t let them get started right from their own zone. Our puck pursuit, our decisions with the puck will be vital in tonight’s game.”

Who: Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars

Where: American Airlines Center

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennCody EakinTyler Seguin

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaPatrick Sharp

Antoine RousselMattias JanmarkAles Hemsky

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak, Travis Moen

Injured: None

Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – David Jones

Sam Bennett – Markus Granlund – Jiri Hudler

Mason Raymond – Mikael Backlund – Josh Jooris

Michael Ferland – Matt Stajan – Joe Colborne

Mark Giordano – T.J. Brodie

Kris Russell – Dougie Hamilton

Deryk Engelland – Dennis Wideman

Karri Ramo

Jonas Hiller

Scratched: Brandon Bollig, Ladislav Smid

Injured: Lance Bouma (broken fibula), Michael Frolik (upper 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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