Not only are the Dallas Stars set to debut a new face on Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers, but they are also likely to have their No. 1 goaltender back in action for the first time in two weeks.
The Stars look to get a boost from netminder Kari Lehtonen and winger Erik Cole as they shoot for a seventh straight win over the Oilers.
Cole was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday in exchange for forward Michael Ryder and a third-round pick in the 2013 draft. Not long after the deal, Dallas gutted out a 5-4 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, improving to 2-0-1 in its past three.
Dallas gave up the game-tying goal with 1:34 left in the third, but Loui Eriksson put home his sixth goal of the season with 1:57 to play in the extra session. Richard Bachman made 16 stops in the win.
The Stars rank 14th in the NHL with 2.75 goals per game and will look to Cole for a boost. The 34-year-old notched a career-high 35 goals with 61 points in 82 games with Montreal last season and had six points through 19 games this season.
"He's a big, strong guy who likes to go to the net, plays hard," said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan of Cole. "He gives us size and speed and strength, so that will be a nice acquisition for us."
Gulutzan should also be happy to have Lehtonen back after his 29-year-old netminder missed the past five games with a groin injury suffered during a Feb. 15 outing against the Vancouver Canucks.
Lehtonen was off to a great start, going 7-2-1 with a 2.12 goals against average and .934 save percentage in 12 games.
"Everything started well. Of course, I didn't want to get hurt but that happened and I just have to find my game again and hopefully I can continue kind of where I left off. That's what I'm trying to do," said Lehtonen, who is 9-2-0 with a 2.00 GAA in 11 lifetime starts versus the Oilers.
Lehtonen has already backstopped the Stars to a pair of wins over the Oilers in Edmonton this season, stopping 62-of-65 shots faced. The Stars have won 11 of the last 12 meetings in this series overall.
Edmonton will make the second stop of its nine-game road trip looking to find some success in Dallas. The Oilers have dropped five straight on the road in this series and have picked up just four victories in their last 31 trips to Big D.
The Oilers began their road trip with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, who extended their NHL-record season-opening point streak to 19 straight games.
Jeff Petry had a short-handed goal and rookie Nail Yakupov scored on the power play to put the Oilers ahead at the 14:17 mark of the second period. Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 31-of-34 shots in defeat, Edmonton's third in four games.
"Big picture, it's an excellent point against the strongest team in the National Hockey League right now," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said. "Of course you feel pain, having the lead going into the third period. It's definitely something you dream and believe you can close it, but they really are an amazingly powerful team. They're very, very strong on the puck. They never let up at all."
While the Stars are getting two fresh faces into their lineup, the Oilers will have forward Taylor Hall available for the first time in three games after he served a two-game ban for an illegal hit in last Thursday's loss to the Minnesota Wild.
Hall has three goals and 16 points in 16 games this season and will likely skate on the top line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle in this game.
Devan Dubnyk, who is 5-5-3 with a 2.78 GAA this season, will make first start since Feb. 21 as Khabibulin was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with an undisclosed injury.
Dubnyk has never beaten the Stars, going 0-4-1 with a 4.01 GAA in five starts, giving up seven goals on 57 shots in the two meetings this season.