Stars vs. Lightning Line Combos & Game Notes: Brett Ritchie, John Klingberg & Val Nichushkin Make Preseason Debut
The big Russian and the Stars' top prospect will be on the ice tonight for the Stars.
Note: Tonight's game is expected to be streamed online. We'll update once we know for sure.
The Dallas Stars will skate in their third preseason game on Friday night, and will see some new faces on the ice for the first time as a couple of injured players finally get to see some action against an opposing team.
Trevor Daley, Sergei Gonchar, Valeri Nichushkin and finally Brett Ritchie and John Klingberg will make their anticipated debuts tonight after dealing with various injuries throughout camp. It's especially exciting to see Ritchie and Klingberg get into a game as they were the two players expected to push the most for the NHL coming out of camp, and so far have seen Curtis McKenzie and Jyrki Jokipakka really step up the competition in the games they've played.
Now it's their turn.
The Stars will also put a couple of exciting junior hockey players back on the ice tonight, with Jason Dickinson and Julius Honka getting another shot at showing their stuff against NHL competition. Both have availed themselves well this preseason and it will be interesting to see how Dickinson fares without Erik Cole on his wing -- who he discovered great chemistry with on Monday.
Here are the expected lines tonight:
Kari Lehtonen is expected to play the entire game tonight, with Jussi Rynnas as backup.
Daley played a bit with Honka in training camp in Fort Worth and they had some really great chemistry together; although both are players rather aggressive offensively so seeing how that works out will be one of the highlights of the night.
One player to keep an eye on is Nicolas Blanchard, who is in Dallas on a PTO and who has had a couple of standout moments in camp. He's a gritty player with good speed and who can put the puck on net and while he might not have a spot in Dallas -- or even Texas -- he's definitely giving all he can to prove to other teams he's worth a shot.
The big name on the night is Brett Ritchie, however. The best player for the Texas Stars in the playoffs last season and someone who had a great showing in Traverse before his injury is expected to be a possible contributor at the NHL level this year and get's his first shot to prove it tonight.
"Ritchie is getting in," said Ruff after morning skate. "He's excited to get going. He was having a real good camp in Traverse and I'm excited to see him play. He's skating well, seems to be shooting the puck real well. He's another guy that is chomping at the bit and seems to be knocking on the door."
The schedule over the next few days is going to be tough for the Stars, with four games in the next five days -- with a lot of travel in between. It's a chance to get his team some tough endurance lessons early in the season, but also gives the Stars a chance to see some players they might not normally give time to as well. The Stars are going with a mixed group tonight against the Lightning and will again tomorrow night against the Blues -- Monday and Tuesday's games will likely feature mostly NHL players.
What about that power play? The preseason is a chance to give the unit some work, but the Stars are also focused on giving some of those opportunities to younger players as well.
"What we've done is try to give some younger players the opportunity," said Ruff. "We've given Jokipakka and Oleksiak some time on the back end. Tonight we're going to give Klingberg some time back there, we're going to give Honka time on the second unit. To me it's a chance to look at some of the younger guys -- have a veteran unit and have a younger unit. Give some younger an opportunity they may not normally have. We may even have three different looks tonight."
Here are the expected lines for Tampa Bay tonight:
Ben Bishop will start in net, with Evgeni Nabokov getting into the game as well.
Check our Ruff's scrum from this morning below, including some background giggling from a couple of big-name forwards on the team.