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Dillon Heatherington Headshot

Heatherington is on track to make his NHL debut against the Blue Jackets on Thursday, according to Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News.

This is based on the young defenseman showing up for morning skate and working alongside Stephen Johns on the third pair. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Heatherington was originally drafted by the Blue Jackets (2015 second-rounder) before getting packaged in a trade for Lauri Korpikoski at last season's dealing deadline. He should bring a physical edge to Thursday's game, and it wouldn't be all that surprising if he puts an apple on the board. Heatherington has provided three goals and 10 helpers for AHL Texas this campaign.
12:21 pm (EST)
Anton Khudobin Headshot

Khudobin will start Thursday's road game against the Islanders.

Khudobin will get the starting nod Thursday after Boston's top netminder Tuukka Rask backstopped the team's 4-1 win over Montreal on Wednesday, which extended the Bruins' points streak to 14 games. In the process, Khudobin will take aim at an Islanders squad that saw its three-game win streak snapped by a 4-1 loss to New Jersey on Tuesday.
12:17 pm (EST)
Julius  Honka Headshot

Honka appears in line to watch Thursday's game against the Blue Jackets from the press box, Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News reports.

It looks like the Stars want to give Dillon Heatherington his first career start against the team that drafted him, so Honka draws the short straw here. The Finn is being eased into NHL action, putting up one goal, two assists and a plus-2 rating through his first 24 games as a second-year skater. Selected in the first round (14th overall) of the 2014 draft, Honka still projects well long term, however.
12:11 pm (EST)
Nathan Beaulieu Headshot

Beaulieu (illness) did not skate Thursday morning ahead of their game against the Rangers.

Justin Falk, Jake McCabe and Victor Antipin rotated on the third pairing, which means Nathan Beaulieu is unlikely to dress. Casey Nelson, recently called up from AHL Rochester, skated with Josh Gorges on the second pair. Acquired in a trade from Montreal, Beaulieu has four points and a minus-14 rating in 32 games this season. He has not been an effective second-pair defenseman the Sabres thought they were getting.
11:59 am (EST)
Jack Johnson Headshot

Johnson has softened his stance on a trade after a one-on-one meeting with coach John Tortorella, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

With his ice time declining and free agency looming, Johnson said his request for a trade wasn't about him being unhappy in Columbus but about positioning himself for his next contract, and Tortorella is more than willing to give him an opportunity to earn that ice time back with the Jackets rather than in another uniform. "I don't think it's Jack Johnson pounding his fist on the table saying 'I want out of here,' " Tortorella said Wednesday. "I think it's a player when he's lost some minutes in his game, he's at the end of his contract, maybe negotiations aren't going on. ... He wants to know if there are other options. This doesn't change anything with me and my thoughts about him. Jack and I have known each other for a long time in national tournaments. I know what he is. And I know he's not a player that wants to get the hell out of here." Johnson will get his first chance to regain a key role on the Columbus blue line Thursday against the Stars, when he'll be put back on the second pairing with David Savard.
11:55 am (EST)
  Nene Headshot

Hilario (knee) is available for Thursday's game against the Timberwolves, Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston reports.

Hilario has missed the last six games due to a knee injury, but his return Thursday will give the Rockets some much-needed depth in the frontcourt, especially with Trevor Ariza suspended for the next two contests. Hilario will likely take back the minutes Tarik Black has seen in his absence recently.
11:55 am (EST)
Luc Mbah a Moute Headshot

Mbah a Moute will draw the start at small forward for Thursday's game against the Timberwolves, Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle reports.

The Rockets are set to be without Trevor Ariza, who has been suspended two games for an altercation that occurred against the Clippers on Monday. That allows Mbah a Moute to pick up the start in his place Thursday, which will also likely be the case for Saturday's matchup with the Warriors. With Gerald Green (suspension) also out, Mbah a Moute is likely looking at hefty minutes in the wing, though he'll have to share the added workload with P.J. Tucker. Either way, an uptick in production and fantasy value should be expected.
11:54 am (EST)
Robin Lehner Headshot

Lehner will start against the Rangers on Thursday, Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News reports.

Lehner will try to bounce back after a disastrous start against the Jets last Tuesday before the Sabres went on their bye week. He was pulled early and has just one win in his past six appearances. Although he has a pretty good .917 career save percentage against the Rangers, his 2-2-2 record and 3.19 GAA is more a reflection of the team in front of him. He'll need all the help he can get against a favored Rangers team that's 16-8-3 at home.
11:53 am (EST)
James Harden Headshot

Harden (hamstring) will start in Thursday's game against the Timberwolves and will play around 25 minutes, Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle reports.

As expected, Harden will make his return to the lineup Thursday after a hamstring string had him sidelined for the last seven games. With Harden's return to the starting lineup, Eric Gordon is expected to return to his regular role as a sixth man off the bench, but given that Harden will me on a minutes limit, Gordon should still see a sizable role in the backcourt Thursday.
11:52 am (EST)
Andrei Vasilevskiy Headshot

Vasilevskiy will return to the cage for Thursday's home start against the Golden Knights, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Vasilevskiy is in the midst of the worst stretch of an otherwise stellar campaign, having watched the puck travel past him 15 times over his past three starts. Still, the guy should get a free pass seeing as how he's posted a tidy 2.18 GAA and .930 save percentage to complement 27 wins through 37 games. Thursday's date with the Golden Knights should be no walk in the park, though, since Vegas is well coached, aggressive on the forecheck and seemingly possessing an insatiable drive to make the playoffs in its inaugural season.
11:47 am (EST)
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