Morning Skate: Rynnas returns to lineup as Texas Stars try to clinch playoff berth

CEDAR PARK — Jussi Rynnas playfully hid behind Brett Ritchie after he was the first goalie off the ice Friday morning.

But it’s hard to sneak by unnoticed when you’re 6-foot-5 and wearing goalie pads.

So Rynnas stood out and Ritchie’s block couldn’t help the him escape to the locker room without addressing the media. Rynnas will make his first start since suffering a lower-body injury on March 17 against the Lake Erie Monsters.

“It feels really good,” Rynnas said. “Just waiting and sitting on the bench, it’s frustrating. But now that’s done, and I want to play my best game and give my team a chance to win.”

If Rynnas can secure a win tonight against the Hamilton Bulldogs it would also clinch a playoff berth. Texas can also clinch a playoff spot with an overtime or shootout loss.

Rynnas said the most frustrating part of the injury was watching and waiting. He couldn’t help his teammates and said “luckily we weren’t losing” because he would have blamed himself.

Rynnas said he feels “completely healthy” and he’s been practicing hard the past week. He could have started against the Iowa Wild on Tuesday, but Stars coach Derek Laxdal elected to have him rest a couple more days before Texas played back-to-back games against Hamilton.

Curtis McKenzie could also return to the lineup for Texas after missing three games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Laxdal said McKenzie is a game-time decision, but he looked good at morning skate. If he plays he’ll jump onto the second line with Justin Dowling and Ritchie, while Laxdal will rearrange the bottom-six forwards.

Defensemen Derek Meech and Scott Valentine are both day-to-day, but won’t play tonight.

Projected lineup:

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