Starting with this game, the Stars have four games in six nights, most on the road as they swing up through New York state and Boston this weekend. So optional skates make sense at this point in the season, even when the team is coming off a disappointing shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
Even without a chunk of the lineup in attendance, we learned a few things from this morning's workout, the most notable of which is that goalie Kari Lehtonen looks like your starter.
This makes sense - the Stars have back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday with travel (albeit just between Buffalo and New York City), and right now Jussi Rynnas is up with the club with Anders Lindback on a conditioning assignment in the AHL. The more interesting question will come this weekend, with the goalie deployment in those back-to-back games.
From a skater perspective, Brett Ritchie and David Schlemko stayed late, indicating they are the likely scratches. There have been reports that Ritchie may skate in warm ups as a precautionary measure. Jason Spezza took a maintenance day on Wednesday, and Erik Cole played his first game back from an upper-body injury on Tuesday, so those are the obvious candidates as to who might be more questionable.
Ritchie was recalled this morning as Travis Moen was placed on injured reserve with a lower body injury. He played one game in the AHL on the road back from an injury of his own to mixed reviews.
Ritchie recall was for injury purposes. Laxdal said Ritchie "was just OK" Tuesday. "Wasn’t moving his feet, didn’t play a heavy game."— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) February 5, 2015
If everyone is healthy enough to go tonight, the Stars are planning on using the same lineup as they did in the shootout loss to the Avs. While the results might not have been consistently there, the Stars have been playing strong hockey since the All-Star break, partially due to consistency in the lineup from the top two lines and the special teams units.
Who knew Patrick Eaves was the key to all things?
For the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy, otherwise known as the rookie goalie who wears the number 88, appears to the be starter, which means former Texas Tornado goalie Ben Bishop is getting the night off. Tampa is on its annual dad's trip, and the fathers got to watch practice yesterday at the AAC.
Brian Boyle, who missed Wednesday's practice, took morning skate and should be ready to play tonight. Brett Connolly and Nikita Nesterov appear to be the scratches.