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Lehtonen likely to start for Stars in Game 4

Goalie relieved Niemi in Game 3 loss against Blues

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

Game 4: STARS at BLUES

Western Conference Second Round

St. Louis leads best-of-7 series 2-1

TV: 8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

ST. LOUIS -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he was "embarrassed" with his team following a 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round series and likely will change his starting goalie again for Game 4.

Goalie Antti Niemi, who started Game 3, likely will be benched in favor of Kari Lehtonen, who was first off the ice and is the likely starter.

Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots in Game 3 and was pulled in the second period. Lehtonen made 24 saves on 27 shots in relief. Lehtonen was pulled to start the second period in Game 2 after allowing three goals on five shots.

"A hundred percent," captain Jamie Benn said Thursday, asked if he agreed with his Ruff's comments. "We didn't bring out the effort that we wanted, especially in the playoffs when it's the most important time of the year. We got embarrassed, they embarrassed us. We've got a lot to work for tonight."

The Blues have the chance to take a 3-1 series lead, something they had against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round before winning Game 7. They expect the Stars' best effort on Thursday.

"Tonight is going to be another nail-biter," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "They have to play as a desperate team tonight and if we can match that desperation and get to our game, I think we'll be just fine.

"This is a game where we can almost establish that home ice advantage if we can win this tonight. It's the complete opposite for them. If they win this game, they have two more home games to finish the series. We want to make sure that we're right off the bat getting to our game, getting pucks in deep and not trying to get into that track meet and make them feel comfortable the entire game. This is a pivotal game."

It's the reason Blues coach Ken Hitchcock likes where his team is in the series, because of the way they are playing.

"We think we're getting better," Hitchcock said. "We think we were better in Game 3 than we were in Game 2 and that's the focus right now. That's what series end up becoming. You never stay the same, you either get better or you get worse. Teams get digs in on you, whether it's on special teams or 5-on-5, both teams are probing hard for weaknesses.

"We feel like we played well in Game 3, but we're going to have to play better in Game 4 and that's the whole focus. You get rid of all the debris from whatever happened 48 hours ago. You move on and the players are great at it, they move on and all the stories and all the hoopla, whatever went on is past. They move on and try to get playing a better brand of hockey."

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Sharp

Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin

Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Ales Hemsky

Colton Sceviour - Vernon Fiddler - Brett Ritchie

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns

Kris Russell - Jason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

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

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Jordie Benn, Curtis McKenzie, Travis Moen

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: Based off line rushes, the Stars will play Nichushkin and Ritchie, each a healthy scratch for Game 3, in place of McKenzie and Moen. If Ritchie plays, it will be his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.

Who's hot: Brouwer has a goal and assist in each of the past two games. ... Backes had two goals and one assist in the past two games. ... Berglund has a four-game point streak (one goal, three assists) and Shattenkirk has a three-game point streak (one goal, three assists). ... Sceviour has a goal and assist in the past two games. Goligoski has a point in four of the past five games.

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