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Little out, Pavelec starts for Jets against Stars

Niemi gets call for Dallas in Winnipeg

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Correspondent

STARS (37-17-6) at JETS (25-29-4) 

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FS-SW, TSN3, NHL.TV 

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets will be without center Bryan Little when they begin a home-and-home series with the Dallas Stars at MTS Centre on Tuesday. 

Little practiced in a non-contact jersey Monday for the first time since he left in the second period of a 6-5 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 18. He was hit at mid-ice by defenseman Anton Stralman and has missed one game because of a neck injury. 

"He didn't step back from [practice] coming in [Tuesday], but didn't walk in and say 'I'm ready and right,'" Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "[Wednesday] is the big day. If he can get through practice [Wednesday] in a contact sweater and then get off that flight…then we would look for him in Dallas [on Thursday], hopefully." 

Goalie Ondrej Pavelec will start for the fourth time in five games since he returned from a knee injury. No other lineup changes are planned for the Jets, who are last in the Central Division and have lost three games in a row. 

Dallas has won the first three games of the season series. 

"We've played them tough," Jets right wing Blake Wheeler said. "We have had some battles. It's just one mistake that they've capitalized on here or there, and they've pulled away from us." 

The Stars, who have also lost three straight games, will be without forwards Patrick Eaves (illness) and Travis Moen (lower body). Goalie Antti Niemi will start for Dallas 

Slowing down the Jets' offensive rush will be a focus for Stars coach Lindy Ruff. 

"If we play our game, we'll be alright," Ruff said. "I think we've got to make sure that we take away some of the rush game. I think the strength of guys like Wheeler and that is definitely on the rush, and I think the big guy (Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien) on the back end there has always been dangerous." 

Stars captain Jamie Benn is looking forward to back-to-back games against a Central Division rival. 

"I think it's awesome," Benn said. "It's kind of like a bit of a mini-playoff series. It's going to be high-paced and physical, and we'll see what happens out there." 

Here are the projected lineups: 

STARS 

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Jason Spezza  
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Patrick Sharp  
Valeri Nichushkin - Mattias Janmark - Ales Hemsky  
Vernon Fiddler - Radek Faksa - Colton Sceviour  

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg  
Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers  
Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn  

Antti Niemi 
Kari Lehtonen  

Injured: Patrick Eaves (illness), Travis Moen (lower body) 
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak  

JETS 

Nikolaj Ehlers - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler 
Alexander Burmistrov - Mathieu Perreault - Drew Stafford  
Andrew Ladd - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia  
Chris Thorburn - Andrew Copp - Anthony Peluso  

Toby Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien 
Tyler Myers - Jacob Trouba  
Ben Chiarot - Paul Postma  

Ondrej Pavelec 
Michael Hutchinson  

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Bryan Little (neck), Mark Stuart (hand) 
Scratched: Adam Pardy  

Status report: Moen will miss his sixth consecutive game. "He's game-ready," Ruff said. "We're just getting him a couple of extra practices and [then] we'll get him in."…The prognosis for Eaves is less optimistic. "Eaves looks like he is going to be missing a little bit of time," Ruff said. "He's pretty sick. From what I understand, it could be a week-to-10 days before he gets back."…The subject of rumors leading up to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, this could be Ladd's final home game. He joined the organization in 2010. 

Who's hot: Hemsky has scored in each of his past two games. … Jamie Benn has a goal and two assists in his past two games. … Ladd has three goals in his past two games. 

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