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Morning Skate Update

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

It will be Kari Lehtonen vs. Tim Thomas in goal tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Florida Panthers at American Airlines Center in the season opener for both teams.

“Ready to rock and roll,” said Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon. “The points count now and everything is for real. It’s been a good camp, but I think everybody has been excited for this day to come.”

The Stars saw the Panthers twice in the preseason, winning both games. But this time the game will count and Florida has made a lot of changes to its roster since those exhibition games, adding Thomas, defensemen Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert and forward Brad Boyes.

The Panthers also have 2013 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

“They are a team that maybe flies under the radar themselves,” Dillon said. “That Barkov is a high pick this year. They’ve got (Dmitry) Kulikov, (Brian) Campbell on the backend. Tim Thomas is kind of that wild card. He won a Stanley Cup a couple years ago. It’s going to be interesting. They are a lot like us with a lot of changes. It will be a good game tonight for sure.”

Nichushkin to make NHL debut

Valeri Nichushkin, the Stars’ first round pick (10th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut tonight. He is expected to play right wing on a line with center Vernon Fiddler and left wing Shawn Horcoff.

“He’s one of a lot of young guys. You want to see how the young guys approach the game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Obviously, it is his first pro game and he’ll probably have some nerves early on. Maybe there will be a tendency to try a little too much, but it’s his first game and we want to get him through it and we want him to enjoy it.”

Thursday’s game

Who: Florida Panthers at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/104.1 FM

Projected Stars lineup

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Erik Cole
Ray Whitney
-Cody Eakin-Alex Chiasson
Shawn Horcoff
-Vernon Fiddler-Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel
-Chris Mueller-Ryan Garbutt

Alex Goligoski-Sergei Gonchar
Brenden Dillon
-Stephane Robidas
Jordie Benn
-Trevor Daley

Kari Lehtonen (starter)
Dan Ellis

Projected Panthers lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Kris Versteeg
Jesse Winchester - Shawn Matthias - Tomas Kopecky
Scottie Upshall - Scott Gomez - Drew Shore

Brian Campbell – Ryan Whitney
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Tom Gilbert - Erik Gudbranson

Tim Thomas (starter)
Jacob Markstrom

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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