Tim Thomas is expected to make his first start for the Dallas Stars when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at American Airlines Center. Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice this morning for the Stars, indicating he’ll be in net. Cristopher Nilstorp, called up from the Texas Stars on Sunday, will be the back.
The Stars could be riding Thomas for a bit because of the injury to Kari Lehtonen, who left Saturday’s game after a collision with Minnesota forward Erik Haulua. Stars coach Lindy Ruff provided an update on Lehtonen after this morning’s skate.
“It’s a concussion,” Ruff said.
There is no timetable for Lehtonen’s return. It is a day to day situation.
“When he starts feeling well, he’ll start exercising again,” Ruff said.
Thomas made his Stars debut Saturday night, taking over for Lehtonen in the third period. He stopped all six shots he faced and got the win as the Stars rallied from a 3-2 deficit to defeat the Wild, 4-3. The Stars acquired Thomas at last week’s NHL trade deadline for his experience in big game situations, and they are counting on that now as the Stars are battling to stay in a playoff position.
“Just that he’s got it done before. He’s a battler. He’s played in pressure situations. He understands what it takes,” Ruff said. “He’s won a couple of Vezinas. He’s won a Stanley Cup. I think that bodes well for putting a guy in the net and he’s had a good year to this point. We know we’ve got a real good contender that is going to step in and try to win us games.”
The Stars enter tonight’s game in eighth place in the Western Conference, three points ahead of ninth-place Phoenix and four points behind seventh-place Minnesota. This will be their second game against Columbus in less than a week. The Blue Jackets won 4-2 in Columbus last Tuesday after jumping out to a 3-0 lead.
“Every game is big right now. It doesn’t matter who you are playing,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin. “Columbus gave us a tough time in their building the last time. They came out hard and played quick, so we need a good first tonight.”
Based on this morning’s skate, the Stars will go with the same forward lines and defense pairs as Saturday’s game against the Wild.
Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Blue Jackets. It will be his first start since January 28, but he did play half a game in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky last week.
Seguin NHL’s first star of the week
Stars center Tyler Seguin was named the NHL’s first star of the week after registering nine points (four goals, five assists) as the Stars won three of four games last week.
The league’s second star will be on the ice tonight as well. That’s Columbus forward Artem Anisimov, who scored four goals, including three game-winners, in four games last week.
Quotable: Cristopher Nilstorp on backing up Tim Thomas
“That’s pretty awesome actually. I remember I had posters on my wall of him. It’s pretty awesome to be here and be around him and see how good he is and how hard he works.”
Who: Columbus Blue Jackets 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 – Tyler Seguin – Rich Peverley
Erik Cole – Cody Eakin – Alex Chiasson
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Ray Whitney – Shawn Horcoff – Valeri Nichushkin
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Kevin Connauton – Sergei Gonchar
Blue Jackets projected lineup
Matt Calvert – Brandon Dubinsky – Nathan Horton
Nick Foligno – Ryan Johansen – Boone Jenner
RJ Umberger – Artem Anisimov – Corey Tropp
Derek MacKenzie – Blake Comeau - Mark Letestu
Jack Johnson – David Savard
Nikita Nikitin – James Wisniewski
Nick Schultz – Dalton Prout