Dallas Stars Morning Skate: Kris Russell Held Out, Kari Lehtonen Apparent Starter in Arizona
Both Kris Russell and Mattias Janmark look like potential scratches as the Stars take extra time get everyone completely healthy.
Kari Lehtonen's run of starts for the Dallas Stars looks like it will continue tonight against the Arizona Coyotes as he was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate.
This would be the fifth consecutive start for Lehtonen, dating back to the thumping from the Los Angeles Kings about 10 days ago. Since that game, though, Lehtonen has been solid and a big part of the reason the Stars were able to clinch a playoff spot on Tuesday.
All signs point to the lineup being the same as it was on Tuesday, including the absences of Kris Russell and Mattias Janmark.
Russell blocked a shot with the side of his foot in the final minutes of the game against the New York Islanders, and despite his attempts to be super subtle, he was spotted with a walking boot on his left foot as the team attended Texas Rangers spring training games on Wednesday.
On the bright side, he has skated at least once this week, in the morning skate before the game against the Chicago Blackhawks, and with the team having clinched a playoff spot, they can afford to be cautious with any dinged up player.
Lindy Ruff isn't admitting to any dings, though, calling the decision to keep Russell out of tonight's game a coach's decision. Playoff hockey injury reporting three weeks in advance or Lindy just enjoying being coy? You decide.
With Russell out and the Stars coming off a big win, a reasonable hypothesis would be that the Stars stick with the same defensive pairings they used Tuesday, though those were also scrambled a bit in game as the team sheltered Patrik Nemeth, at least in terms of zone starts.
As far as the forwards go, Janmark worked alongside the second line as he comes back from an upper-body injury, but he was not used in the full rotation and he skated late, indicating he is likely a healthy scratch. Ruff said he could play, but changing the lineup is tough with as well as everyone has been playing.
As with Russell, the Stars can afford to give players time to heal right now. Additionally, the fourth line of Colton Sceviour, Vernon Fiddler and Brett Ritchie all played very well against the Blackhawks, with three goals from Sceviour and Fiddler, and Patrick Eaves has been a big part of the first power play unit.
Here is how Mike Heika saw the lines this morning:
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark/Valeri Nichushkin - Jason Spezza - Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour - Vernon Fiddler - Brett Ritchie
Travis Moen continues to work as a healthy scratch.
The Coyotes, who are working with a goaltending tandem of their own right now, will start Louis Domingue in net as they try to repeat their first game against the Stars this season.