The Dallas Stars will look to make it three wins in a row when they take on the Winnipeg Jets at American Airlines Center tonight. And they'll be trying to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race against one of the teams they are battling for a spot in the top eight.
The Stars (21-20-10) and the Jets (24-25-4) are deadlocked at 52 points and three points out of the second wild-card spot in the West.
"They're a team we're tied with or right there with," said Stars center Jason Spezza. "It's a team we're fighting with, and they've kind of had our number a little bit with the two games in Winnipeg, so I think we have to make sure that we're ready to go and it's a big game for us."
The Stars are 1-2-0 vs. the Jets this season but haven't played them since November 8 when they lost 8-2 in Winnipeg.
"It's no secret when we were in their barn the last two games we didn't play the type of game we wanted," said Stars forward Devin Shore. "We want to show them the way we've been playing lately and ramp it up even because they've been playing really well. They've got some guys that can burn you if you're not careful and if you're not at your best."
It appears that the Stars will make only one lineup change for tonight's game. Patrik Nemeth will be back in on defense after sitting out the past two games as a healthy scratch.
"I think overall he has been solid for us," Ruff said. "He had one tough outing. He gambled on the offensive side a couple times, which we are trying to clean up. For me, his defending has to come first. I think his overall play has been good.
Video: Stars ready for big tilt with Jets
Julius Honka, who had a turnover that led to a goal in Tuesday's 6-3 win over Toronto, skated late this morning, indicating he will be the scratch on defense. Curtis McKenzie and Jiri Hudler are the likely scratches at forward.
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice this morning for the Stars, so he is the expected starter in goal tonight. This will be Lehtonen's second straight start and his fifth in the past six games. He's stopped 92 of 98 shots in his past three games.
"Kari has been solid," Ruff said. "He's made the big saves when we needed them."
Tonight's game is the fifth of a six-game homestand for the Stars. They have picked up six of a possible eight points in the first four games by posting a 2-0-2 record.
Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal tonight for the Jets. It will be the sixth start in the past seven games for Pavelec, who is 3-2-0 with a 3.25 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. Forward Mathieu Perrault will return to the lineup tonight after missing the past three games with an upper body injury. The Jets, who are 4-2-0 in their past six games, have won two straight and are looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season. They have failed in the first nine attempts, going 0-7-2 in those games.
Who: Winnipeg Jets at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars Projected Lineup
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Devin Shore - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Jason Spezza
Lauri Korpikoski - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth - Stephen Johns
Scratched: Jiri Hudler, Curtis McKenzie, Julius Honka
Injured: Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)
Jets Projected Lineup
Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Patrik Laine
Andrew Copp - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Shawn Matthias - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia
Mathieu Perreault - Nic Petan - Chris Thorburn
Josh Morrissey - Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom - Jacob Trouba
Mark Stuart - Paul Postma
Scratched: Michael Hutchinson, Julian Melchiori, Brandon Tanev
Injured: Tyler Myers (lower body), Marko Dano (lower body), Ben Chiarot (upper body), Drew Stafford (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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.