Kari Lehtonen Ready to Return as Dallas Stars Commence Final Playoff Push

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Kari Lehtonen will be back Thursday night, Alex Chiasson will be out and Trevor Daley will be a game-time decision with an upper body injury.

For five games during their post-trade deadline revitalization the Dallas Stars received ample depth scoring from people like Lane MacDermid, Eric Nystrom, Alex Chiasson and of course, a massive contribution from Vernon Fiddler.

The balance, not to mention the impressive quantity of the contributions, has been key in Dallas' ascendancy back into the playoff race as they desperately try to catch Detroit for the West's 8th and final berth - But has the exodus of offensive talent finally caught up with them?

Only Alex Ovechkin had scored at a better clip since the deadline than Alex Chiasson, and now the young rookie is sidelined with a shoulder injury. He will not play tomorrow night against Vancouver at home.

Lines at today's practice were these, courtesy of Mike Heika via the miracle of Twitter...

Whitney-Benn-Eriksson
Nystrom-Fiddler-Cole
Smith-Eakin-Garbutt
Fraser-Wandell-Roussel

What had been called "the second line" (Eriksson-Eakin-Fraser) has now been completely deconstructed in favor of a more top-heavy approach: Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, with the play-making of Ray Whitney, will now be called upon to find a way to carry this team forward one period at a time.

Reilly Smith re-enters the fold on an emergency call-up and will evidently play on a line with Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt. This clearly puts the veteran trio of Fiddler, Nystrom and Cole into the Stars' "second line" role and should keep them together as the team's second power play unit as well.

Fiddler racked up 10 points in 6 games up until the Chicago defeat on Monday night - An admittedly unsustainable pace on his account, but that line will have to find a way to contribute Thursday night while also dealing with the Sedins or Ryan Kesler.

And if that's not enough trouble down the middle for the post-deadline version of the Stars, forget not that Derek Roy will center a third line for those Canucks tomorrow.

Meanwhile on the defense the injury bug bites a little with Trevor Daley missing practice due to an upper body injury.

"He has a little upper body thing, but we are hoping he'll be able to go tomorrow," Glen Gulutzan told media today. "He's had two days off. He'd be a day-to-day guy but there is a good chance he is going to go tomorrow."

If Daley is unable to go the defensive pairings, via Mark Stepneski, could look like this.

Rome-Robidas
Dillon-Goligoski
Benn-Larsen

Kari Lehtonen practice today and Cristopher Nilstorp has been returned to the Texas Stars. Barring further health concerns we'd expect that Lehtonen will play every second of every game until the Stars are eliminated, or perhaps even exalted as they head for the post-season.

The Stars must treat every game from here on out as a must-win. How would you matchup lines with a stacked Vancouver roster tomorrow?

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