It appears the Dallas Stars will not make any lineup changes when they take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight at American Airlines Center.
Based on this morning’s skate, Stars coach Lindy Ruff will go with the same line combinations and defense pairs used in Saturday’s win over the Montreal Canadiens. Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice this morning, so he is expected in goal tonight against his former team, the Jets who were once the Atlanta Thrashers.
Ales Hemsky and Jyrki Jokipakka skated late, indicating both will be healthy scratches tonight. It will be the second straight scratch for Hemsky and his third of the season.
Tonight’s game is a big one for the Stars, who are still looking for their first win against a Central Division team. More important, they are facing the team that currently holds the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Jets (14-9-5) are eight points ahead of the Stars (10-12-5).
“They’re obviously ahead of us in the standings by a little bit. We dug ourselves this hole, so we’ve got to find a way to get out of it,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin. “It’s going to be a big test tonight.”
“Every game’s important for us right now,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We took a good step in the right direction again. I think it’s just becoming a consistent team where we’re not two steps forward and two back. We got to win games. It doesn’t matter if it’s Central Division, you name it, we have to win games.”
The Stars have done a better job of winning games at home lately. They are 4-0-1 in their past five at American Airlines Center.
Michael Hutchinson was first off the ice for the Jets, so he is expected to be in goal tonight for Winnipeg. Hutchinson has been impressive in the backup position this season, posting a 5-1-2 record, 1.62 goals against average and .943 save percentage.
The Jets will be without forward Evander Kane. The NHL suspended Kane two games Monday for a hit on Anaheim’s Clayton Stoner.
Winnipeg comes into the game on a 4-0-2 run and are 2-0-2 in their last four on the road.
Quotable: Jets coach Paul Maurice on Stars center Tyler Seguin
You know what, same things I think he’s always done in a lot of ways. I mean matures as a player and geez, he’s still such a young guy, but an incredible finishing shot, great speed. I’ve always found him to be a very creative player and he’s got people to play with now to complement him in that role. So dangerous. If you score 21 over the course of a season, you’re a good player. If you can do that before the 30-game mark, you’re a great player and he’s going to get his chances in here tonight. We’re going to try to limit them as best as we can, so is every other team that’s played them this year and he’s still found a way.”
Who: Winnipeg Jets 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
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Colton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzie – Jason Spezza – Erik Cole
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Jamie Oleksiak – John Klingberg
Scratched: RW Ales Hemsky, D Jyrki Jokipakka
Injured: RW Patrick Eaves (ankle), RW Valeri Nichushkin (hip), D Patrik Nemeth (arm)
Jets projected lineup
Andrew Ladd – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
Mathieu Perrault – Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik
Chris Thorburn - Adam Lowry – Matt Halischuk
TJ Galiardi – Jim Slater – Anthony Peluso
Mark Stuart – Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot – Dustin Byfuglien
Adam Pardy – Paul Postma
Scratched: Julien Brouillette, Patrice Cormier.
Suspended: Evander Kane.
Injured: Zach Bogosian (lower body), Grant Clitsome (upper body), Tobias Enstrom (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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.