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Stars Face Coyotes in Key Game Before Olympic Break

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars play their final game before the Olympic break tonight and it is a big one. They take on the Phoenix Coyotes, who currently hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and are two points ahead of the Stars.

The Coyotes took over the final wild card playoff spot in the West with a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night.

“We’re treating this as normal as we can. Talked about the importance of the game, that’s why we’re down here skating and getting ready,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I watched the game last night. I don’t think Chicago was ready to play. I thought Phoenix really dominated the game. [The Blackhawks] had a little bit of a push back late, but for us, we’ve got an opportunity with a team that came in here late, played. We know what type of game. I don’t think it’s going to change from the game before and it’s going to be a battle where some patience at times is really going to have to pay off and at the same time we’re going to have to get around the net and make sure we’re battling for second opportunities and making it real tough on them.”

Both teams come into the game playing well defensively. The Stars have allowed just 11 goals over the last eight games for an average of 1.38 per game. Phoenix has allowed seven goals over the last five games for an average of 1.4 per game.

“I know how well they’re playing defensively right now,” said Ruff. “I think you’ve got two teams that are playing real well defensively and I don’t think that’s going to change in tonight’s game.”

The Stars are expected to go with the same lineup as Wednesday’s game in San Jose. Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal. The forward lines are expected to be the same. Kevin Connauton is expected to play again on defense and Aaron Rome will be a scratch.

Mike Smith, who shut out Chicago Friday night, will start for the Coyotes.

Saturday’s game

Who: Phoenix Coyotes at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: TXA-21
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinValeri Nichushkin
Erik ColeCody EakinRich Peverley
Ray WhitneyShawn HorcoffAlex Chiasson
Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerRyan Garbutt

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley
Jordie BennBrenden Dillon
Kevin ConnautonSergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen
Dan Ellis

Coyotes projected lineup

Shane Doan – Martin Hanzal – Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski – Antoine Vermette – Mikkel Boedker
Tim Kennedy – Mike Ribeiro – David Moss
Kyle Chipchura – Jeff Halpern – Rob Klinkhammer

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle – Connor Murphy
David Schlemko – Michael Stone

Mike Smith
Thomas Greiss

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.

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