The Dallas Stars held an optional skate in St. Louis this morning as they prepare to take on the Blues tonight at Scottrade Center.
The Stars, who are without three top forwards including Tyler Seguin, are expected to go with the same lineup they rolled out in Monday’s practice in Frisco. That includes Jason Spezza centering the top line with Jamie Benn and Erik Cole on the wings.
“I look at them as three veteran guys who I need a big night out of,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I am anticipating tough matchups for them. It’s their opportunity. It’s Jason’s opportunity to get a little more lead time. The games have been low on five-on-five chances, and I want to see what they can do.”
Antoine Roussel returns tonight after sitting out two games due to a suspension. He is expected to skate on the second line with Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt. Vernon Fiddler will center the third line with Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie on his wings.
“We need some offense,” Ruff said. “You can say they were gritty and did all the right things, but we need some offense. I think they can provide that. I think it would be a hard line to play against.”
The Blues are a tough team to play against, ranking fifth in goals against (2.41) and sixth in shots against (27.8). With Seguin and others out, the Blues will provide a tough challenge.
“We need production from deeper in our lineup,” Ruff said. “Our challenge tonight against a team I feel has very good structure is make sure that we're trying to kick a hole in their defense and get inside.”
The Stars will play their second straight game without Seguin (knee), Patrick Eaves (concussion) and Ales Hemsky (lower body). The Stars hope Hemsky might be ready to play by Thursday.
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars, so it looks like he will get the start tonight.
David Schlemko is the likely scratch on defense.
The Stars enter tonight’s game six points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Brian Elliott will get the start in goal tonight for the Blues, who have won three in a row and ten of their last 12 (10-2-0). St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock was asked about how he sees the Stars now that Tyler Seguin is out of the lineup with a knee injury.
"It's a hard read,” Hitchcock said. “[Jason] Spezza is obviously stepping up and playing that role now. We just look at it as right-shot, right-shot. I think it probably affects down-the-line depth, probably pushes guys up. But we're all missing significant players at this time of the year.”
Defenseman Barret Jackman, who has spent his entire career with the Blues, will play his 780th NHL game tonight and will move into second place on St. Louis’ all-time games played list. Bernie Federko is tops in games played for St. Louis at 927.
Who: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues
Where: Scottrade Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Erik Cole
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzie – Vernon Fiddler – Brett Ritchie
Travis Moen – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: David Schlemko
Injured: Ales Hemsky (lower body), Tyler Seguin (knee), Patrick Eaves (concussion), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
Blues projected lineup
Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin - Jori Lehtera - Patrik Berglund
Steve Ott - Marcel Goc - Ryan Reaves
Chris Butler - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Jay Bouwmeester
Barret Jackman - Ian Cole
Scratched: Joakim Lindstrom
Injured: Kevin Shattenkirk (abdomen), Chris Porter (leg)
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.