Stars coach Lindy Ruff has indicated that goalie Kari Lehtonen will start just one of the two games of the back-to-back, the other going to backup Dan Ellis. And while Ellis did play well in his last start - the Stars 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers - Lehtonen has clawed the Stars to several wins by sheer force of will already this season.
Here's the case for starting Lehtonen tonight in a nutshell: The Stars would like to string wins together against Central Division opponents and take advantage of any momentum the team gained from Saturday's 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets. They'd also like to get Lehtonen back cruising along at above-average speed after a stretch where he played well but didn't pick up many regulation wins.
On the other hand, Dallas desperately needs to get something going at the American Airlines Center this season. True, the team hasn't really played at home that much, but the Stars are about to enter a home-heavy stretch and need to get many things, from the power play to simply picking up points, going at the AAC. Lehtonen likely gives them the best chance to do that tomorrow night.
So what's it going to be?
The early indications are that Lehtonen will start tonight. Mike Heika reported he was the first off the ice at the morning skate at the Pepsi Center (though the Stars have fooled us before with this bit).
In fact, a lot of things look familiar from the Stars' last game.
Stars lines in Denver this morning: Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin, Cole-Eakin-Chiasson, Whitney-Peverley-Garbutt, Roussel-Horcoff-Sceviour.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) December 16, 2013
This is pretty much what the Stars rolled against the Jets as the first line scored five goals (including two on the power play).
The other goal came from rookie Colton Sceviour on a breakaway. He is the most likely candidate to come out of the lineup when Vernon Fiddler is ready to return from his upper-body injury, but that day doesn't look like it has come just yet.
On the back end, according to Heika, Alex Goligoski and Brenden Dillon were paired while Aaron Rome was skating with Sergei Gonchar and the rookie pair of Kevin Connauton and Jamie Oleksiak stayed together. That would mean Jordie Benn is the defensive scratch for the second consecutive game.
Goligoski will be playing with a black eye and his stitches after being boarded by the now-suspended Anthony Peluso last game. The force of the hit drove his visor into his face, causing the cut. He and Dillon played well together last game, as did Gonchar and Rome. Gonchar had a career-high four assists and made some great passing reads to start the transition game - something the Stars have been missing since the defense started taking on injuries.
Semyon Varlamov looks like the starter for the Avs tonight. His career statistics against the Stars aren't all that spectacular, but he does have two wins over the Stars this season, including that game back in October where he stopped 39 out of 41 Stars shots.