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Stars-Blackhawks Preview

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks
Thursday, March 23
7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

About the Stars

The Stars (29-33-10) defeated San Jose, 1-0, at American Airlines Center Monday night. Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 shots for his second shutout of the season, and Curtis McKenzie scored the lone goal for Dallas.

"I thought the team played great," McKenzie said. "You know it's probably not the most exciting game for a lot of our players, but I thought we were doing the right thing- coming back hard, protecting our slot, and we went forward from there. It was a great game for the team."

Stars center Jason Spezza (back) skated Wednesday but did not practice. He is doubtful for Thursday's game.

The Stars play six of their next seven games on the road to finish off a stretch of 11 of 15 games away from home.

Injuries: Jason Spezza (back) is doubtful. LW Antoine Roussel (hand) is out. C/LW Mattias Janmark (knee) is on injured reserve.

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Catching up with Mattias Janmark

Stars forward won't play this season, but is making progress in recovery from knee surgery

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Stars forward Mattias Janmark won't play this season, but he's making progress as he recovers from the knee surgery he underwent in late September. Janmark has skated a few times with the team recently, and he took part in Wednesday's practice in Frisco. It's a step forward in a long recovery process.

"It's fun. I've been on a few morning skates, but practice is a step further," Janmark said. "It's fun skating on the ice. It feels pretty good, but it's hard to say because I am not going too hard. You could try to push it but there is no reason, and I don't think I feel good enough to do it."

Janmark underwent surgery on September 30, a little more than a week into training camp, to correct a congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Stars GM Jim Nill explained the issue during training camp.

"It's a condition that develops in joints due to a lack of blood supply in that area," Nill said. "What happened with Mattias is he had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and it's locked in his knee."

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Bob Gainey expands commitment to local students

The Gainey Foundation and Dallas Stars Foundation increase their contributions to scholarship fund

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Bob Gainey was the architect of the Dallas Stars 1999 Stanley Cup championship team. And he is still building in the Dallas area, helping pave the way to a brighter future for some local high school students through the Bob Gainey Scholarship Fund.

And now that scholarship fund, which has been in place since 2003, is expanding from one $5,000 scholarship to two $10,000 scholarships, which are paid out over four years. The Gainey Foundation and the Dallas Stars Foundation both upped their commitments to the fund.

"It came up higher on my priority list because I have been kept abreast of who the recipients were year by year," Gainey said. "The Gainey Foundation will be ten-years-old in May of this year, and we've been looking for new and different people to partner with, to make a difference with, either big or small. The scholarship as it stood was losing a little bit of momentum, so it was time to refresh the scholarship that is a good opportunity for a student and now maybe two. The fact that it is in my name, I'd like it to be something that the students, who qualify for it, have a good chance for their education to move the right direction."

The scholarship fund was established to honor Gainey's service on the Dallas Stars Foundation Board of Directors during his time with the team. The scholarships are awarded to a student-athlete who possesses "a strong work ethic and high integrity, qualities espoused by the Dallas Stars and exhibited by Mr. Gainey throughout his National Hockey League career." And students have to meet certain requirements to maintain the scholarship.

"The criteria the Stars have in place sets the bar high, but it's not out of reach," said Gainey.

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Perseverance pays dividends for Adam Cracknell

Veteran forward excited about recent contract extension with Stars

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Adam Cracknell has bounced around quite a bit as a pro hockey player. The 31-year-old forward has been with seven NHL teams over his 11-year career and six different minor league teams in both the AHL and ECHL. And there have been a lot of transactions, including 17 assignments to the minors, and a trade to St. Louis from Columbus for future considerations. 

But now, Cracknell is hoping he has found some traction in Dallas, where he has had a career-year at the NHL level and earned himself a one-year, $675,000 contract extension for 2017-18.  

"It's a nice feeling coming to the rink knowing that you are part of the team and not worrying about what could go wrong," Cracknell said. "It's nice to get it done during the season. I showed management what I could do for the team, and it's been a good personal season, but we are not where we want to be as a team, so it's a little bittersweet."

Cracknell has set a career-high in games played in the NHL (59), goals scored (seven) and points (12), and his plus-ten rating ranks second on the team. He's averaged more than ten minutes per game, playing both center and wing primarily on the fourth line. His offensive numbers don't jump out at you, but Cracknell's job is not to put up big numbers. He's out there to be responsible defensively and do the little things. And he's done all that.

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Texas Stars Report

Defenseman Gavin Bayreuther scores in pro debut, Texas opens key four-game homestand this week

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Texas Stars went 1-1-1 over the past week and are 28-30-5 on the season. The Stars are in sixth place in the AHL's Pacific Division and would need to climb to fourth to make the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs. The Pacific Division standings are based on points percentage due to the uneven number of games played by the teams, and the Stars have little margin for error over their final 13 games. Texas has a key four-game homestand starting this week that includes three games against Stockton, which is in fifth place in the Pacific and is a team the Stars need to pass in the standings. Also, defenseman Gavin Bayreuther, signed to an entry-level deal by Dallas last week, scored a goal in his first game with Texas. Here's the latest on the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars. 

Wednesday, March 15: Chicago 1, Texas 0 (SO)

The Texas Stars lost their fourth straight game, falling 1-0 in a shootout at Chicago on Wednesday. Stars goaltender Justin Peters stopped 26 shots in regulation and overtime, but the Wolves scored on two of their three shots in the shootout. Chicago goaltender Craig Binnington stopped 30 shots and turned away Caleb Herbert and Travis Morin in the shootout to help the Wolves get the extra point.

Friday, March 17: Texas 4, Cleveland 0

Defenseman Gavin Bayreuther scored a goal in his professional debut, and Justin Peters stopped 24 shots as the Stars won 4-0 at Cleveland Friday to snap a four-game slide. Bayreuther, signed as a free agent out of St. Lawrence University earlier in the week, scored on the power play late in the game to extend Texas' lead to 4-0.

"[Travis] Morin found me backside through the seam," Bayreuther told the Texas Stars official site. "I was looking to have a really good seam towards the net, and it snuck five-hole."

Justin Dowling, Austin Fyten, and Caleb Herbert also scored for Texas.

Saturday, March 18: Cleveland 6, Texas 3

The Stars had a 3-0 lead after the first period Saturday in Cleveland, but couldn't hold it. The Monsters scored two goals in the second period and four goals, including two empty-netters, in the third period to rally past the Stars, 6-3. Matej Stransky, Brandon DeFazio, and Caleb Herbert scored for Texas. Justin Peters stopped 34 of 38 shots.

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Lehtonen shines as Stars top Sharks, 1-0

Stars goalie shakes off taking shot up high in warm-ups, stops 30 shots for 36th career shutout

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Monday night didn't get off to a great start for Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, but it ended well. Lehtonen shook off getting dinged up in warm-ups when he took a shot up high from teammate Patrick Sharp and went on to pitch a 30-save shutout as the Dallas Stars defeated the San Jose Sharks, 1-0, at American Airlines Center.

"He was ready to go today," Sharp said, "maybe because I hit him up high in warm-ups. I was a little worried, but when he made those first couple saves I was breathing a little easier."

"That happens sometimes," Lehtonen said getting hit high in warm-ups. "It woke me up. It woke the beast."

The shutout was the second of the season for Lehtonen and the 36th of his career.

"They always feel nice," Lehtonen said. "It's been a tough year, and after a game like this it feels especially good."

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Benn good to go tonight vs. Sharks

Spezza doubtful, Lehtonen expected to get the start in goal

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Jamie Benn will be back in the lineup tonight when the Dallas Stars play the San Jose Sharks at American Airlines Center. Benn missed Friday's game in Calgary with an eye injury.

"Missed a game as a precaution," Benn said. "I had a good practice yesterday and a good morning skate today, so I am ready to go tonight."

Benn was injured Thursday in Vancouver when he was scratched in the eye during a fight with Canucks defenseman Nikita Tryamkin.

"It's fine," Benn said. "I had no problems with it in practice yesterday. I am just looking forward to tonight and see if we can put in a better effort."

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Prospect Report

Forward prospects Riley Tufte, Rhett Gardner head to NCAA Tournament

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Stars forward prospects Riley Tufte (1st round/2016) and Rhett Gardner (4th round/2016) met this weekend in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference championship game, and both are now headed to the West Regional of the 2017 NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament.

Tufte and Minnesota Duluth edged Gardner and North Dakota, 4-3 in the NCHC championship game Saturday night. Tufte scored a goal in the game, tallying from the right circle off the rush to give Minnesota Duluth a 2-1 lead early in the second period. Tufte, a freshman, has 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 33 games. Minnesota Duluth, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation, will take on Ohio State Friday in the West Regional.

Tufte Stats: Minnesota Duluth (NCAA) | 33 GP | 8 G | 5 A | 13 PTS | +13 | 26 PIM

Photo credit: University of Minnesota Duluth

Gardner, a sophomore, did not factor in the scoring for North Dakota in Saturday's game. Gardner, a sophomore, has 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 37 games. North Dakota, which is ranked No. 10 in the nation will take on No. 7 Boston University in the West Regional.

Gardner Stats: North Dakota (NCAA) | 37 GP | 7 G | 13 A | 20 PTS | +2 | 69 PIM

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Stars-Sharks Preview

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

San Jose Sharks at Dallas Stars
Monday, March 20
7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

About the Stars

The Stars (28-33-10) lost 3-1 at Calgary Friday night. A neutral zone turnover led to Calgary taking a 1-0 lead late in the first period, and the Flames had a 3-0 lead by midway through the game.

"This is just one of those nights where we made too many mistakes, and it cost us," Stars defenseman Dan Hamhuis said.

The Stars, who went 1-3-0 on a four-game road trip, have lost four of their past five games overall.

Stars captain Jamie Benn, who missed Friday's game with an eye injury, practiced Sunday. He will be a game day decision. Center Jason Spezza left Sunday's practice early with back spasms and is doubtful for Monday.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said if both Benn and Spezza can't play Monday the Stars would either call up a forward from the AHL or dress eleven forwards and seven defensemen.

Injuries: LW Jamie Benn (eye) is questionable. C Jason Spezza (back spasms) is doubtful. LW Antoine Roussel (hand) is out. C/LW Mattias Janmark (knee) is on injured reserve.

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Jamie Benn a game-day decision for Monday

Jason Spezza doubtful after leaving Sunday's practice with back spasms

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars have some question marks at the forward position as they get ready to face the San Jose Sharks Monday night at American Airlines Center.

Center Jason Spezza left Sunday morning's practice in Frisco early and might not be available for Monday's game.

"He ended up with back spasms," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I would put him in the doubtful category."

Stars captain Jamie Benn, who missed Friday's game in Calgary with an eye injury, practiced Sunday morning but his status is still up in the air. Ruff did say that Benn being on the ice for practice was encouraging.

"He's a possibility. I expect it will be a decision on how he feels later today," Ruff said. "Based on practice today I would put the chances higher than [50-50] for him playing. But we'll see what tomorrow brings."

Benn was injured in Thursday's game at Vancouver when he was scratched in the eye as he fought Vancouver defenseman Nikita Tryamkin late in the second period. Benn did not return to the game after the scrap.

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