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Connauton to Make NHL Debut, Goligoski a Scratch as Stars Take on Flames

Thursday, 10.24.2013 / 1:34 PM / Inside Edge
By Mark Stepneski
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Connauton to Make NHL Debut, Goligoski a Scratch as Stars Take on Flames
23-year-old Kevin Connauton will make his NHL debut when the Dallas Stars take on the Calgary Flames at American Airlines Center.

Stars defenseman Kevin Connauton sat in the locker room after Wednesday’s practice and talked about the couple times he almost got into games this season.

“Last game we all dressed for warm-ups and I really wasn’t sure. I was texting my family and friends, saying, ‘Hey, it might be tonight. Keep an eye on the game,’” he said. “Then in Colorado, (Trevor) Daley had kind of tweaked his shoulder and they had me warm up just in case. Those were both moments that I thought maybe it was coming, but it didn’t end up happening. I don’t know how to describe it. It almost feels like it is never going to come. “

But tonight, it will come. The 23-year-old Connauton will make his NHL debut when the Dallas Stars take on the Calgary Flames at American Airlines Center. He’ll play with Sergei Gonchar on the Stars’ third defensive pair.

“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.”

Connauton, acquired last season from Vancouver in the Derek Roy deal, has been a healthy scratch the first eight games of the season. He’s a slick skating defenseman, who can move the puck. He’s got a hard shot as well.

“Great mobility. He’s used his size and reach well defending,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We’ve had a couple of guys that have struggled, so we are going to give him a look.”

Alex Goligoski, who has struggled so far this season, will come out of the lineup tonight to make room for Connauton.

This will be Connauton’s first game since the Sept. 27 preseason game against the Edmonton Oilers. Even though he hasn’t played in almost a month, Connauton said he’s made strides while watching and practicing with the Stars.

“Even though you are just practicing, you feel like you are always learning,” Connauton said. “You are always having to push yourself because the pace is so much higher. I think I’ve learned and grown a lot even since training camp, being here, being with this group of guys and having to step up my game to keep up with them on the ice.”

Connauton signed a three-year contract with the Stars this past summer. This year he is on a two-way deal, but the next two years are one-way. It was a big shot of confidence for Connauton, who is in his fourth professional season.

“For me it’s been the mindset of being better than I was the year before going into each camp,” Connauton said. “In years past, I went into training camp and I wanted to make the team, but I knew in the back of my head that I didn’t stand a good chance. This year, I came in with the mentality that I didn’t want to leave at all. It was make the team or nothing for me. It’s a process, and I am taking it step by step. I made the first goal of opening night roster, and now it’s a matter of getting that first game under my belt and moving on from there.”

Ruff on Goligoski being scratched

Alex Goligoski will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game against Calgary. Stars coach Lindy Ruff talked about the decision after Thursday morning’s skate.

“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. He’s had a great attitude. He even had a great attitude yesterday. I want him to work hard, get back in and play well.

“We need to win games. Defensively we haven’t played well enough and some of our defensemen haven’t played well enough. It’s time to hold guys accountable for their play.”

Notes

*As expected, Kari Lehtonen will start in goal for the Stars tonight. He returns after missing the last five games with a lower body injury.

*Erik Cole, who didn’t practice the last two days due to an undisclosed injury, skated this morning and is expected to play tonight.

*Defenseman Aaron Rome cleared waivers Thursday morning. The Stars said they were planning no immediate roster moves.

Thursday’s game

Who: Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinRich Peverley
Ray Whitney
Cody EakinAlex Chiasson
Valeri Nichushkin
Shawn HorcoffErik Cole
Lane MacDermid
Vernon FiddlerAntoine Roussel

Brenden DillonStephane Robidas
Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn
Kevin Connauton
Sergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen (starter)
Dan Ellis

Scratches: Alex Goligoski, Aaron Rome

Suspended: Ryan Garbutt

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 NSH 63 41 15 7 191 151 89
2 ANA 63 39 17 7 186 176 85
3 STL 62 40 18 4 192 153 84
4 CHI 63 37 21 5 183 150 79
5 WPG 63 31 20 12 174 170 74
6 VAN 61 35 23 3 174 162 73
7 MIN 62 33 22 7 176 161 73
8 LAK 61 29 20 12 164 157 70
9 CGY 62 33 25 4 175 160 70
10 SJS 63 30 25 8 175 181 68
11 COL 63 27 25 11 167 182 65
12 DAL 62 27 25 10 195 207 64
13 ARI 63 20 36 7 138 214 47
14 EDM 63 18 35 10 143 208 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Benn 62 23 37 -1 60
T. Seguin 55 29 30 0 59
J. Spezza 62 15 37 -3 52
E. Cole 57 18 15 4 33
T. Daley 59 16 16 -9 32
J. Klingberg 48 10 22 2 32
C. Eakin 59 14 14 -2 28
A. Hemsky 56 9 17 -7 26
A. Goligoski 62 2 24 2 26
A. Roussel 60 12 11 -11 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
K. Lehtonen 25 13 10 .905 2.97
J. Enroth 13 24 2 .900 3.31
 
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