Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars
Thursday, October 24 @ 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
The Stars (3-5-0) return home to face the Calgary Flames (4-3-2) after finishing 0-2 on their first road trip to California this season. Facing former Pacific Division rivals the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, the Stars were outscored 11-5 on the trip and have dropped four of their last five games.
Despite a 3-1 lead going into the second period and a strong performance from rookie goaltender Jack Campbell, Dallas would go on to give up five unanswered goals to lose in Anaheim 6-3.
“When we have a 3-1 game, the other team should have to earn it. They didn’t earn it,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “They have good players and they made good plays, but we didn’t play well enough away from the puck to deserve to try to preserve that game or win that game.”
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen is expected to make his return after missing the last five games with a lower body injury. Lehtonen is tied for second in the League in save percentage (.953) and fourth in goals against average (1.57).
“He’s going to be a big boost for us,” said Ruff.
In attempt to shake things up defensively, defenseman Alex Goligoski will be a healthy scratch tonight for the first time this season and second in his tenure as a Dallas Star. Struggling tremendously on both sides of the ice, the former Pittsburgh Penguin has recorded a minus-ten rating and has yet to record a point through eight games this season.
“I had a real good conversation with him. I want him to improve some of his defending,” Ruff said. “There’s been some good to his game, which I talked about. There’s nothing on the offensive side to help support the defensive numbers. He’s working hard."
In Goligoski's absence, rookie defenseman Kevin Connauton will make his NHL debut.
“We’ve had a couple of guys that have struggled, so we are going to give him a look," said Ruff.
Connauton, 23, was acquired last season via trade from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Derek Roy. While he possesses a strong set of skating and puck moving abilities, Connauton's shot from the point could provide a significant spark to the Stars' power play in the near future. In 2012, he won the AHL's Hardest Shot competition when he clocked in at 99.1 MPH at the age of 21.
Throughout this week in practice, he was reportedly seen paired on the third defensive unit alongside Sergei Gonchar. As speculation stirred throughout the day that he may see his debut against the Flames, Ruff confirmed the decision via the Stars official website.
“Great mobility," said Ruff. "He’s used his size and reach well defending. I think he has put his work in. He’s had a good camp and I think the opportunity now is for him to play."
Connauton has been a healthy scratch through the first eight games this season.
“I’m extremely excited, a little bit nervous,” Connauton said after Thursday morning’s skate at American Airlines Center. “I never thought this moment was going to come the last couple years, so it’s pretty surreal that it’s happening right now. I am going to try to make it through the day, get a good nap in and get after it tonight.”
Tonight will be the first of three meetings between the Stars and Flames this season.
Calgary leads the all-time series count against Dallas with a record of 62-61-32, including a 2-1 record against the Stars in three meetings last season.
Forward Erik Cole (undisclosed) is expected to play.
STARS PROJECTED LINEUP
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Rich Peverley
Ray Whitney - Cody Eakin - Alex Chiasson
Valeri Nichushkin - Shawn Horcoff - Erik Cole
Lane MacDermid - Vernon Fiddler - Antoine Roussel
Brenden Dillon - Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley - Jordie Benn
Kevin Connauton - Sergei Gonchar
Dan Ellis (backup)
D Alex Goligoski, D Aaron Rome, F Ryan Garbutt (suspended)
Coming off a 4-2 loss in Phoenix, the Flames (4-3-2) look to improve after only accumulating five total shots on goal through the first half of the game against the Coyotes on Tuesday. Falling behind 2-0, the Flames would tie the game but would allow the eventual game-winning goal by Mike Ribeiro early in the final frame.
"The first period, we didn't skate very well, I felt our energy level was not very good, we were not throwing enough pucks at the net," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "The second period, we got going. I really liked our last 40 minutes. We gave ourselves a chance to win the game."
Thursday in Dallas will wrap up Calgary's five game road trip. The Flames are currently 1-3-0 in the last four games away from home.
According to the Flames official site, the team announced Wednesday that rookie forward Sean Monahan will not return to juniors and will stay in Calgary for the remainder of the season. The 18 year-old was Calgary's first round pick (6th overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and currently leads the Flames with 6 goals on the season.
Defenseman Mark Giordano (lower body) and center Matt Stajan (leg) are questionable.