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Ruff mum on Stars' goaltender against Blues

Signs point to Niemi, but Dallas coach won't commit after morning skate

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

Game 3: STARS at BLUES

Western Conference Second Round

Series tied 1-1

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports

ST. LOUIS -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff is in Stanley Cup Playoff mode.

Ahead of Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round against the St. Louis Blues, Ruff was asked twice regarding his starting goaltender Tuesday.

When asked if he thought for a long time regarding his decision whether to start Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi, Ruff's answer threw the media gathering for a curveball.

"We've been going with Lehtonen, so we're going to stay with him," Ruff said abruptly. 

Niemi, who relieved Lehtonen after the first period of Game 2, was the first goalie off the ice following the morning skate and Lehtonen was still working with the scratches while Ruff was speaking to the media.

Another question came, asking to be clear, regarding the first goalie off the ice, Ruff cut the question off and said, "I'm not telling you who's starting, so you don't have to ask again."

Niemi made 19 saves before allowing a goal from Blues captain David Backes at 10:58 of overtime to even the series. Niemi's teammates are used to the musical chairs with the goalies. 

"Obviously, it's up the coach to make that decision," Stars center Cody Eakin said. "Whenever either one of them steps in, we're confident. They give us the ability to give us that confidence and allow us to play strong and give us a chance on any given night.

"Whether it's a switch or one starting versus the other, we're confident in both of them and we're going to play hard for them."

The Blues know goalie Brian Elliott, who took a hard shot off his mask from Stars center Jason Spezza in the third period Sunday, will play Tuesday. Elliott was on the ice for the morning skate Tuesday and appeared to show no ill effects from the shot.

The Blues are making no lineup changes.

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Sharp

Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Colton Sceviour

Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Ales Hemsky

Curtis McKenzie - Vernon Fiddler - Travis Moen

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns

Kris Russell - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Injured: Tyler Seguin (lower body), Patrick Eaves (foot)

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Jordie Benn, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie

BLUES

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Patrik Berglund - David Backes

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Injured: None

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Dmitrij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi, Steve Ott, Petteri Lindbohm, Chris Butler, Peter Harrold, Ty Rattie, Anders Nilsson

Status report: McKenzie will make his NHL playoff debut and likely replace Nichushkin, who was on the ice well after many of the gameday players were off. ... Ruff did say Eaves and Seguin both skated Tuesday, and Eaves could return as early as Game 4 or 5. It is not known when Seguin could return, but Ruff did say what is keeping Seguin out is unrelated to his initial Achilles tendon injury. "Tyler, we'll see," Ruff said. "It was his first day of really getting on the ice and getting something done. He's in a little different category [than Eaves]. … The Achilles is not an issue, not an issue, and I know that must seem strange, but it's not an issue."

Who's hot: Benn has at least one point in seven of the Stars' eight playoff games; he leads the NHL in playoff points with 12. Goligoski has a four-game point streak (three goals, one assist). ... Shattenkirk has a goal and two assists in two games against the Stars in the series and has 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) in 24 games against Dallas. Berglund has a three-game point streak (one goal, two assists).

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