Morning skate: Finally healthy, Jack Campbell gets start on birthday

The flu symptoms are finally gone and Jack Campbell will make a fully-healthy start for the first time since early November when the Texas Stars host the Iowa Wild.

“Yea, finally. I had it for a couple months,” Campbell said Friday morning. “I’ve been battling, but no excuses. So I’m just trying to stay healthy and get two big points.”

Campbell’s last start came Dec. 21 against the Hamilton Bulldogs, but he hasn’t been 100 percent healthy for a game since he started against the Rockford IceHogs on Nov. 16.

During that stretch with lingering illness Campbell appeared in seven games (five starts) and had a .887 save percentage. In his eight games (seven starts) before illness struck Campbell had a .905 save percentage.

Today is also Campbell’s 23rd birthday, which he shared with Travis Morin (31) and Radek Faksa (21), but he doesn’t have any elaborate plans.

“Just winning a hockey game,” Campbell said.

On paper, that should be easy against the AHL’s last-place team.

However, Iowa has played above their position in the standings and recently picked up impressive wins against the Milwaukee Admirals and Utica Comets.

“They’re a team that plays with a lot of energy. (Coach John Torchetti) has them playing hard on the forecheck and they’ve seemed to pick up their game a little bit,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “These are huge points tonight, not only for us, but also for Iowa.”

While the points are important, the Stars were a relaxed group at morning skate Friday.

Captain and resident prankster Maxime Fortunus pulled off his latest caper late in practice, with an assist from equipment manager Brian “Elvis” Garcia.

During a face-off drill Garcia discreetly passed a towel covered in shaving cream to Fortunus. The captain then snuck behind Morin right before Laxdal was about to drop the puck, and covered the reigning AHL MVP’s face in shaving cream.

Morin still won the draw.

Texas will field a similar lineup to the one it used in a 5-2 victory against the Oklahoma City Barons on Tuesday.

Morin will center the top line between Derek Hulak and Greg Rallo, while Gemel Smith will try and continue his recent hot streak as the second line center with Brendan Ranford and Scott Glennie.

Jesse Root will center the third line with Kevin Henderson and Matej Stransky, while newcomer Eric Faille was centering Taylor Peters and Mike Dalhuisen in practice.

Defensively Derek Meech returns from a one-game absence and slides onto a pairing with Matt Mangene. Cameron Gaunce and Maxime Fortunus will also work together, while the Finnish duo of Julius Honka and Jyrki Jokipakka where paired together.

Curtis McKenzie practiced in a red no-contact jersey and is out tonight, while Justin Dowling — who has been classified as “day-to-day” — did not skate.

Tonight’s projected lineup:
Hulak-Morin-Rallo
Ranford-Smith-Glennie
Henderson-Root-Stransky
Dalhuisen-Faille-Peters

Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Mangene
Honka-Jokipakka

Campbell

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