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Stars expect Modano to play Thursday

by Staff Writer / Dallas Stars

December 1, 2003

By J. Douglas Foster

This may be the best news the Dallas Stars have had in some time.

Dallas head coach Dave Tippett said Monday that Stars captain Mike Modano, who went down Sunday night after taking a stick to the face against Los Angeles, will be back in the lineup Thursday when the Stars face the Kings again, this time at the Staples Center.

Fortunately, the stick did not cause any eye damage despite the fact that it caught Modano right across the nose and into the eye as well.

"He'll practice tomorrow (Tuesday)," Tippett said, "and he'll be ready to go Thursday. It's a small abrasion (on the eye), he saw a specialist today and it seems fine.

"That's certainly better than the alternative."

It certainly is, especially considering the Stars have already lost one marquee player for some time to an injury to the same area. That player -- Philippe Boucher -- was placed on injured reserve Monday following the injury he received during Friday's victory against New Jersey.

That night, Boucher was hit in the face with a puck, which fractured his left orbital bone and required him to have surgery Saturday morning. Boucher will be evaluated in two weeks.

While he is out, the Stars were forced to yet again recall a defenseman from Utah. This time, it was Jeff MacMillan getting the call, and he is expected to join the team Tuesday morning at practice.

MacMillan, 24, has appeared in 21 games with the Utah Grizzlies this season, posting one goal and three assists for four points with 22 penalty minutes. He is tied for first on the team in game-winning goals (one). In two preseason contests with the Stars in 2003, MacMillan collected one assist.

"He's a big, strong guy," Tippett said of the 6-foot-3, 206-pound defenseman. "His game is strong defense and his game is being physical."

With Boucher and Teppo Numminen (fractured foot) out of the Stars' lineup, Tippett and his coaching staff will look to the veteran group of defensemen remaining -- Sergei Zubov, Richard Matvichuk and Jon Klemm -- to take the reins and lead the way for youngsters MacMillan, Trevor Daley and John Erskine.

"We've played some pretty good hockey of late," Tippett said. "Right now we need our veteran players to lead the way. Those defensemen have to step up their game and continue to work hard to keep our goals-against down."


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