Saturday Morning Skate: Stars vs. Coyotes

The Dallas Stars skated at American Airlines Center this morning as they prepared to take on the Phoenix Coyotes tonight in the season opener for both teams.

Stars defenseman Aaron Rome is out tonight due to a groin injury. Rome, who tweaked the groin in Tuesday’s camp scrimmage, has been skating the past three days.

“He’s making strides,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “It’s not a big injury. He’s day-to-day.”

Earlier in the morning, the Stars assigned Antoine Roussel to the Texas Stars of the AHL. The move leaves the Stars with 13 forwards on the roster.

“We decided we didn’t need to have two young guys sitting. We have healthy bodies here,” said Gulutzan. “We thought Roussel had an excellent camp. He came in here and did what he does. You’ll see him up here at some point during the year.”

With Roussel being sent down, Colton Sceviour is the 13th forward on the roster.

Tom Wandell gets an opportunity

With Jamie Benn still not signed to a contract, Tom Wandell gets the opportunity to move into the Stars top six group of forwards. He’ll center a line with Ray Whitney and Michael Ryder on the wings.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Wandell. “They are great players to play with and I am going to try to make the best of it. I am just going to try to play a good two-way game and get open for them.”

Wandell filled in at times in the top six last season, and he believes he’s better prepared this time around. He has last season’s experience in the role, and he’s already played 26 games this season in the KHL, where logged almost 18 minutes a game.

“I think this year I am more ready right from the start,” Wandell said.

“I think what you saw last year when we had two centermen down, is he came in and played adequate minutes,” said Gulutzan. “It’s not easy going from playing seven minutes a night to 18 to fill in. He’s been playing (in Russia) and he’s played in that spot before against top players. It’s a great opportunity for him.”

Jamie Benn’s absence

As the Stars skated Saturday morning, center Jamie Benn was still not under contract. Benn, a restricted free agent, is still in the process of negotiating a deal with the Stars and is not expected to be on the roster by Saturday’s season opener.

“We love him as a teammate. He’s a special player. We’d be lying if we didn’t admit to that,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “But we believe in the guys we have here. Tonight it is Tommy (Wandell) stepping up, he’s performed before, and we expect him to do it again. He probably doesn’t do the things Jamie does, but he does other things well and we expect him to do those tonight.”

“He always is in the back of your mind, but our complete focus has been what do we have here now and how we are going to be the best team now,” said Gulutzan. “When he gets here, we’ll deal with it then.”

Stars lineup

Here’s how the Stars’ lineup should look tonight:

Loui Eriksson-Derek Roy-Jaromir Jagr
Ray Whitney-Tom Wandell-Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow-Vernon Fiddler-Eric Nystrom
Ryan Garbutt-Cody Eakin-Reilly Smith

Alex Goligoski- Stephane Robidas
Jordie Benn-Trevor Daley
Brenden Dillon-Philip Larsen

Kari Lehtonen (starter)
Cristopher Nilstorp

Colton Sceviour is expected to be a healthy scratch.

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