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Spezza expected to return tonight vs. Jets

Forward returns after missing five games with upper-body injury

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Jason Spezza is expected to return to the lineup tonight when the Stars take on the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre.

"Looks like he is ready to go," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "He had a good workout yesterday, and all indications are that he is ready to play."

Spezza has missed the past five games with an upper-body injury suffered in the Feb. 2 game against Winnipeg when he was hit hard by Jets forward Adam Lowry. Spezza is expected to play on a line with Tyler Seguin and Lauri Korpikoski tonight.

With Spezza coming back into the lineup, the Stars will need to scratch two forwards. It appears Adam Cracknell and Jiri Hudler will be tonight's scratches at forward.

Video: Spezza ready to return against Jets

No changes are expected on defense. The Stars will go with the same six defensemen used in Sunday's game in Nashville. Patrik Nemeth is the expected scratch on the blue line.

Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight. He has started just two of the past eleven games for the Stars. His last Stars was in Toronto on Feb. 7 when he stopped 31 shots in a 3-1 loss.

The Stars (22-25-10) have lost five of their past six games and four straight on the road. They come into tonight's game six points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"It's living today," Ruff said. "Worry about the game tonight. Can't spend too much time worrying about yesterday and can't look ahead. It's one game at a time."

Jets Watch

Connor Hellebuyck will get the start in goal tonight for the Jets. He is 17-15-1 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. The Jets (25-29-4) have lost four straight games including three straight on their current homestand. Like the Stars, they come into tonight's game six points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"There's a sense of urgency to get back on the right track," Jets forward Adam Lowry told media. "We weren't happy with our effort against Tampa (4-1 loss Sunday), and we know it's going to be a tough game against Dallas. We are right there with them in the standings, so we are looking forward to the challenge."

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Winnipeg Jets
Where: MTS Centre
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Lauri Korpikoski - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Adam Cracknell, Jiri Hudler, Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Johnny Oduya (ankle), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)

Jets Projected Lineup

Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Copp - Mark Scheifele - Patrik Laine
Shawn Matthias - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia
Mathieu Perreault - Nic Petan - Drew Stafford

Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien
Josh Morrissey - Jacob Trouba
Mark Stuart - Paul Postma

Connor Hellebuyck
Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Chris Thorburn, Julian Melchiori
Injured: Toby Enstrom (lower body), Ondrej Pavelec (lower body), Mark Dano (lower body), Tyler Myers (lower body)

This story was not subject to 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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