Stars look to shine against Sabres

The Dallas Stars may be returning home from a five-game road trip, but they aren't going to be complacent when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday at American Airlines Center.

Meeting with reporters on Friday, Stars coach Ken Hitchcock explained that mentality after the team lost to the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 on Thursday.

"You know what, we are on a long road trip until Monday," Hitchcock said. "We've just got to deal with it that way. These happen to be home games, but there's been no break."

The Stars will turn to back-up goalie Kari Lehtonen, who will make his third start of the season. Lehtonen has a sub-par .896 save percentage in four appearances (two in relief) but did make 29 saves on 30 shots in his last outing in a 2-1 win at Calgary on Oct. 27.

That should be the only lineup change for Dallas.

Forwards Martin Hanzal and Brett Ritchie have both been ruled out for the next two games. Hanzal skated on his own Friday, but likely won't return for at least a week. Hitchcock couldn't give any further details on Ritchie, but said he doesn't expect it to be a long-term injury.

Both injuries come at a frustrating time for Dallas, which went 2-3-0 on the road trip.

The Stars top line of Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin, and Jamie Benn have combined for 19 goals this season, but the rest of the forwards have combined for just nine goals in 13 games.

That was a point of emphasis for the Stars during a video session Friday -- the Stars need be the aggressor.

"Winning in the National Hockey League goes to the team that initiates," Hitchcock said. "There are all kinds of issues that go into why are you playing on your heels ... so that's what we talked about, what's holding us back from playing on our toes?"

The Sabres are trying to build off a 5-4 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

Buffalo led 5-1 early in the third period, but allowed three goals in the 12 minutes and were almost pulled into overtime with the NHL's worst team.

"We got away from what made us successful and we almost shot ourselves in the foot," Sabres coach Phil Housley said after the win. "Obviously, we'll take the win."

While the finish wasn't great the five goals were a confidence booster.

"It's a big boost of confidence hopefully going into Saturday's game in Dallas," Buffalo left winger Benoit Pouliot said. "We were connecting very good, we were supporting each other and we had a lot of shots."

While the Stars have relied heavily on their top line, the Sabres have relied on their bigger names.

Jack Eichel has three points and seven assists, while Ryan O'Reilly has four goals and six assists. The Sabres are 3-2 in their last five and Eichel has a goal and two assists while O'Reilly has two goals and four assists in the last five games after setting up three goals Thursday.

Chad Johnson is expected to start in goal for Buffalo after Robin Lehner struggled in the third period against Arizona.

The Stars have enjoyed success at home in the all-time series at Buffalo, and have a 32-22-7 record against the Sabres in Texas. Buffalo has the all-time edge with a 54-47-19 edge, but the Stars won the biggest game meeting between the teams back in 1999 when Dallas won the Stanley Cup in six games.

Updated November 3, 2017

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