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Pitlick 'ready to go' as Stars hit road for three games

Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock says the forward is '100 percent' after missing time with an upper-body injury

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars are getting a little healthier as they hit the road for games against the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Forward Tyler Pitlick, who has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, practiced Sunday morning and is ready to return to the lineup.

"We'll get him in the next two games, probably look at playing him even Monday," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's 100 percent and ready to go. We've got some good decisions to make up front."

But defenseman Marc Methot still isn't ready to return from the lower-body injury that kept him out of Friday's game against the Islanders. Methot skated before practice Sunday but didn't travel with the team as it departed for North Carolina.

"We don't feel he can play in the first two games, and if he gets better, he will come for the third game," Hitchcock said. "We're going to leave him back here and rehab and just go with the six defensemen."

The Stars have no plans to call up an extra defenseman for the trip. Hitchcock said if they need one they can bring one in quickly.

Video: Stars offense comes alive vs Isles

The Dallas coach has a goaltending plan for the first two games of the trip: Ben Bishop will get the start Monday against Carolina, and Kari Lehtonen will get the net Tuesday against Florida. Hitchcock said the starter against Tampa Bay is still up in the air and there should be no assumption it will be Bishop because of his history there and that it will be his first game in Tampa since the Lightning traded him to Los Angeles last season.

"I don't think like that," Hitchcock said. "We need to win on the road to keep pace with everything that is going on. It looks like the Central Division has really perked its head up now and everybody is really playing well. They are winning and getting points on the road. That needs to be our mantra too.

"Whoever gives us the best chance and that's what we are looking at. Ben played great the last game at home (14-save shutout of the Islanders). He needs to take the game on the road. And then we need Lehts help again. That's just the way it is. We have to have a better road record if we expect to be a playoff team."

There were no changes to the line combinations in Sunday's practice. Hitchcock rolled out the same ones he used in Friday's 5-0 win over the Islanders. Those lines included Jamie Benn centering a line with Gemel Smith and Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin centering Mattias Janmark and Devin Shore.

"I think they were good in one game, so let's see how it moves forward," Hitchcock said. "I did like the one-two punch (of Benn and Seguin at center) a lot. Hopefully, we can grow on that. We'll get a better test and better read on it on the road."


Sunday's practice lineup

Here's how the Stars lined up in practice on Sunday.

Gemel Smith - Jamie Benn - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark/Jason Dickinson - Tyler Seguin - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Brett Ritchie/Tyler Pitlick

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns

Ben Bishop
Kari Lehtonen

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 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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