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Thursday Morning Skate: Roussel Hopes to Spark Power Play

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars will add a different wrinkle to their power play when they take on the Nashville Predators tonight at American Airlines Center.

Expect to see Antoine Roussel skating with the top power play unit and expect to see him spending a lot of time in front of the net. The hope is Roussel can provide a spark for the power play, which is 0-14 over the last three games.

“We’re looking for more net-front,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I think that we have good skill on the power play. We need somebody that’s willing to really take one for the team – stay in there, hunker down. We’ve got some good shooters. We need a guy that can take the goalie’s eyes away. If he can’t see it, he can’t control rebounds. We’re not getting enough pucks in. We’re trying a lot of seam plays, a lot of perimeter plays. By getting one guy on the inside, we’re hoping for (better results). It’s probably a simpler look, but in a lot of cases, the most successful ones are built around somebody being around the front of the net.”

Roussel spent a lot of time before and during Thursday’s morning skate tipping pucks in front of the net. He practiced on the top power play unit with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Trevor Daley.

“I am just trying to help the team and be in front of the net. I’ve been in front of most of the net five-on-five, so maybe it will be easier to get to the net on the power play,” Roussel said. “I just want to help the power play get going. I am not the one to make plays. I am going to be in front of the net, get the retrieval and get it back to the big boys.”

Roussel hasn’t seen a lot of power play time at the NHL level, but he’s a power play regular in international play for France. And Ruff said he sees Roussel as more than a guy who will just stand in front of the net.

“I said he’s net-front, but for me he’s got four goals,” said Ruff. “Somebody suggested maybe putting your biggest player there like Boston. They’re taking [Zdeno] Chara or [Jamie] Oleksiak would be ours. But he’s got quick hands. He can score. He works at it every day and this is something we’re going to take a good look at.”

Based on this morning’s skate, it appears the Stars will go with the same forward lines and defense pairings as the last game. Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice, so he is expected to get the nod in goal tonight.

Pekka Rinne will start in goal tonight for the Predators. Nashville forward Eric Nystrom will play in his 500th NHL game tonight.

Quotable: Lindy Ruff

“The message to the team the last couple days is your ice time, if you’re not deserving of it you won’t be there. Let’s start making sure that everybody pulls their weight.”

Thursday’s game
Who: Nashville Predators 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 BennTyler SeguinValeri Nichushkin
Erik ColeJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt
Shawn HorcoffVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley
Jordie BennBrenden Dillon
Jamie OleksiakSergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen
Anders Lindback

Scratched: F Patrick Eaves, D Kevin Connauton

Injured: D Patrick Nemeth (arm)

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg – Mike RibeiroJames Neal
Matt Cullen – Derek Roy – Craig Smith
Colin Wilson – Calle Jarnkrok – Olli Jokinen
Taylor Beck – Paul Gaustad – Eric Nystrom

Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Ryan Ellis – Mattias Ekholm
Victor Bartley – Seth Jones

Pekka Rinne
Carter Hutton

Scratched: Gabriel Bourque

Injured: Mike Fisher (Achilles), Anton Volchenkov (suspended)

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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