Gameday Preview: Stars at Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
13-10-8-0, 34 pts
#10 Western Conference
atCharlotte Checkers
11-17-3-1, 26 pts
#14 Western Conference
January 3rd at 6:00 PM
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC

UPDATE: Julius Honka and Jyrki Jokipakka have both officially been assigned to Texas as of late this afternoon. Honka will head to Cedar Park and join the team for Tuesday's game against OKC. Jokipakka may do the same. Either way, he's unlikely to be in for tonight's game.

These two teams met last weekend in Cedar Park and it spurred each team in a separate direction. The Checkers lost to Texas that night and traveled to Oklahoma City to lose two more before the end of the year. Texas finished off 2014 with two wins, one against Charlotte last Saturday and another against San Antonio on Sunday.

Players are going to start filtering back to both lineups from the Christmas-time tournaments around the world. On the Stars' side, Julius Honka's Finnish club dropped a contest Friday against Sweden in the World Junior. It's unclear if he will be able to make it to Charlotte in time for the game tonight. The Finland game was over by mid-afternoon Friday and was played in Montreal. Shouldn't be too hard, but I wouldn't write his name in the lineup in pen quite yet. (UPDATE: Honka is going to sit out the weekend games.)

For Charlotte, Drew MacIntyre makes his return from Europe's Spengler Cup. He represented Team Canada along with several other AHL players in Davos, Switzerland this past week. Canada was knocked out in the semi-final by eventual champion Genève-Servette HC. It was a spirited effort that saw Canada battle back from a 5-0 deficit to drop the game by a final score of 6-5. Former Star Mike Hedden had a goal in the losing effort for Canada.

The Stars should also be getting back a few players from injury. Jack Campbell, Radek Faksa and Branden Troock all practiced this week with the goal of getting back into game action this weekend. The Stars will need those bodies back after the loss of Brett Ritchie to NHL recall. The second-year pro is going to be staying with Dallas for at least a little while after scoring his first NHL goal on New Year's Eve en route to a 6-0 Dallas victory over Arizona.

One point to watch for Texas will be where Gemel Smith drops into the lineup. Without Morin or Dowling available, you'd have to think Smith plays a role in the top six after Sunday's two goal effort. Troock will fill in on the fourth line, taking Mike Dalhuisen off forward duty for the time being. I could see Laxdal pulling Greg Rallo to the first line in place of Ritchie and inserting Faksa between Ranford and Glennie on the second. Something like this:
Stars injury/call up report:
Morin, Jokipakka, Ritchie (call up)
Dowling, Stefishen (injury)
Troock, Faksa, Campbell (expected back from injury)
Honka (World Junior)

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