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Stars Set to Take on Blues in Preseason Opener

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen and Anders Lindback are expected to split time in goal as the Dallas Stars open preseason play tonight against the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center.

The Stars’ two big offseason acquisitions – center Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky – will be in the lineup tonight. So will 18-year-old defenseman Julius Honka, the team’s first-round pick (14th overall) in this summer’s NHL Draft. Seven players who helped the Texas Stars win the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup last season will be on the ice as well.

“I think the players that are out there are deserving of their time,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Last year, it was more important that we gave more of the guys that were here the playing time with us putting a new system in place. Now, the system is in place and we can take a look at some guys we wouldn’t have taken a look at last year.”

Ruff said the first exhibition tilt is a good first building block as the team gets its game in order over the course of the preseason.

“Obviously, we want to see the guys play well,” Ruff said. “I want to see them play as five-man units on the ice, work well as a team. I think it starts in the first game and you to continue to build through the preseason.”

Ruff talks Spezza-Hemsky pairing

How Ruff would put lines together is one of the key story lines of the preseason. Through the first three days of training camp he stuck with the combination of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, who found some chemistry late last season in Ottawa. Spezza and Hemsky were together again in Monday’s pre-game skate.

“It’s a look that is pretty obvious to take a look at,” Ruff said. “That chemistry is there, they like playing with each other. It’s not unlike [Jamie] Benn and [Tyler] Seguin. Those two played well together and if we can have another pair that plays well together that would be great for us.”

Honka, Dickinson excited about first NHL preseason game

Two first round picks will make their NHL preseason debuts Monday night. Both defenseman Julius Honka (14th overall/2014) and Jason Dickinson (29th overall/2013) will be in the lineup. Honka skated with Patrik Nemeth in Monday morning’s pre-game skate.

“First time in the American Airlines Center, it is going to be great,” said Honka.

The skilled defenseman has opened some eyes at camp and said he has gained confidence along the way.

“I had a good summer, I added some weight, I know my strengths and I am able to play with those guys when I play my own game,” Honka said. “I just need to keep going, play smart and enjoy.”

Dickinson centered a line with Erik Cole and fellow 2013 draft pick Remi Elie this morning in Frisco.

“I’m excited. It’s a milestone for me. It is going to be a whirlwind experience,” Dickinson said. “This whole week, I just have to soak it in and take in as much of it as I can.”

Dickinson, one of the Stars’ top prospects, said the NHL training camp has been an eye-opening experience.

“It’s been a huge eye-opener,” he said. “I thought I was ready at development camp (in July). I am skating with these guys, I can keep up and I am pushing the pace. I come here and it’s another world. It’s completely different, unlike anything I ever expected. It’s good that I got it under my belt.”

Injury notes: Gonchar out a couple days; Nichushkin skating

*Defenseman Sergei Gonchar is expected to miss a couple of days after getting hit in the head with a puck in Sunday’s intra-squad scrimmage in Fort Worth.

“He’s just going to miss a couple of days,” Ruff said. “It’s a severe laceration of his ear.”

*Forward Valeri Nichushkin, who has been battling a groin injury, practiced with the non-game group on Monday.

“Val is close to being a full go again,” Ruff said.

Monday’s game

Who: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: American Airlines Center
TV/Radio: None
Video stream:

Probable Stars lineup

Antoine RousselJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Ryan GarbuttVernon FiddlerBrendan Ranford
Curtis McKenzieTravis MorinScott Glennie
Erik ColeJason DickinsonRemi Elie

Jordie BennKevin Connauton
Patrik NemethJulius Honka
Jyrki Jokipakka
Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen
Anders Lindback

St. Louis lineup

Forwards: Patrik Berglund, Paul Bissonnette, Pat Cannone, Jacob Doty, Robby Fabbri, Colin Fraser, Dmitrij Jaskin, Joakim Lindstrom, John McCarthy, Steve Ott, Ty Rattie, Yannick Veilleux, Jeremy Welsh

Defense: Ian Cole, Jordan Leopold, Brent Regner, Santeri Saari, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Whitney

Goalies: Brian Elliott, Niklas Lundstrom

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 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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