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Stephen Johns (illness) doubtful tonight vs. Wild

Kari Lehtonen in goal as Stars try to close out road trip with win

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

It looks like the Dallas Stars will make some lineup changes when they close out a three-game road trip against the Minnesota Wild tonight at Xcel Energy Center.

Defenseman Stephen Johns is ill and is a question mark for tonight's game.

"He is not feeling well, and we will see what tonight brings," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We've got a couple question marks. We'll just wait until game time."

If Johns doesn't play, then Patrik Nemeth, who has been a scratch the past three games, will step in on the blueline. 

At forward, Adam Cracknell is expected back in the lineup. He was a healthy scratch in Tuesday's game at Winnipeg.

"It will allow me to move Devin Shore up the lineup and play him on the wing. [Cracknell] is a fourth-line center option," Ruff said. "The concern for me is the too many men on the ice penalties and [Cracknell] was involved in the one in Nashville and [Brett] Ritchie was involved in one. For me, it's just lack of discipline on their part. I've talked to both players about it, and it's an area I want to clean up."

Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight.

Tonight's game will be the Stars' final game of the season against the West-leading Wild. Three of the first four games have been decided by one goal, and two have gone beyond regulation. The Stars are 1-2-1 in the season series. Special teams will be key. Minnesota has the league's top-ranked home power play (28.2 percent), and they've haven't been allowing many shorthanded opportunities against lately, just six in the past five games.

"It's focus on playing well defensively. We know their power play at home is 30 percent. Discipline is going to be a big issue," Ruff said. "They didn't take any penalties last game so we might get one or two power plays, so if we do we are going to have to make a difference on it. And our five-on-five play, it's going to be execution."

The Stars (22-26-10) come into tonight's game seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Wild Watch

It appears Darcy Kuemper could get the start in goal tonight for the Wild. He's 6-3-3 with a 3.21 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. He's 1-0-1 against the Stars this season, stopping 63 of 70 shots in the two games. The Wild (37-13-6) are coming off a 1-0 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday. Minnesota has won seven straight games following a loss.

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild
Where: Xcel Energy Center
When: 7:00 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 - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth - Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

Scratched: Lauri Korpikoski, Jiri Hudler
Injured: Stephen Johns (illness), Johnny Oduya (ankle), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)

Wild Projected Lineup

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Alex Tuch
Zach Parise - Charlie Coyle - Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart - Erik Haula - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella - Christian Folin
Gustav Olofsson - Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper
Devan Dubnyk

Scratched: Zack Mitchell
Injured: Matt Dumba (lower body), Jonas Brodin (finger), Victor Bartley (arm)

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.

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