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Niemi likely to start for Stars vs. former team, Sharks

by Steve Hunt

SHARKS (5-4-0) at STARS (8-2-0)


DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars look for their ninth win in 11 games when they host the San Jose Sharks at American Airlines Center on Saturday.

Dallas, which has equaled its best mark in franchise history through 10 games, practiced on Friday. Coach Lindy Ruff kept his lines intact from a 4-3 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

Ruff would like to see the Stars, 2-1-0 on their current home stand, not concede the first goal against the Sharks, something they have done in each of the past three games.

"Well, I think we've made some big mistakes, which have hurt us and we'd like to change that," Ruff said pregame. "I thought we came out really good last game [against Vancouver], outshooting them 10-0 and had the first four, five chances, didn't score and all of a sudden, you get scored against. I thought [we need to] take advantage of your opportunity but try to remain a little bit more consistent throughout the first 20 or 40 minutes."

The notable changes from that comeback win inlcuded right wing Patrick Sharp returning to the top line alongside left wing Jamie Benn and center Tyler Seguin. Cody Eakin, who had been centering the top line, moved to the right side of the second line alongside center Jason Spezza and right wing Valeri Nichushkin.

It appears Ruff will keep his defensive pairings intact and that Antti Niemi, who spent five seasons with the Sharks before being traded to the Stars in June, will start his third consecutive game and first against San Jose.

"He's a workaholic as a goaltender and that's great to see," Ruff said of Niemi. "He's a leader when it comes to putting in the work in practice and off-ice."

The Sharks, who lost 2-1 to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday at SAP Center to end a three-game home stand at 1-2-0, practiced in San Jose on Friday prior to flying to Dallas.

According CSN Bay Area, Sharks goalies Martin Jones and Alex Stalock each came off the ice at the same time after practice, so it is unsure who will start in net.

Jones has started all but one game this season for the Sharks, a 6-3 loss at the New York Islanders on Oct. 17, which came on the second night of a back-to-back.

And with San Jose playing again on Sunday afternoon at the Colorado Avalanche, it wouldn't be surprising to see Sharks coach Peter DeBoer start Jones against Dallas and then give Stalock the start on Sunday.

Here are the projected lineups:


Joonas DonskoiJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski

Patrick MarleauTomas HertlJoel Ward

Matthew NietoChris TierneyTommy Wingels

Barclay GoodrowBen SmithMike Brown

Marc-Edouard VlasicJustin Braun

Paul MartinBrent Burns

Brenden DillonMatt Tennyson

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: Logan Couture (fractured right fibula).

Scratched: Dylan DeMelo, Bryan Lerg.


Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Cody EakinJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Mattias JanmarkRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Injured: Patrick Eaves (lower body), Curtis McKenzie (hip), Travis Moen (upper body)

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak.

Status report: Dimelo and Lerg were recalled from the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League on Friday to provide depth. … After practice on Friday, Ruff said Eaves, McKenzie and Moen will not be healthy enough for the start of a four-game road trip which begins Monday at Toronto. Ruff did say one of the players could join them several games into the trip.

Who's hot: Thornton has 64 points (46 assists) in 65 career games against Dallas. … Jamie Benn has 104 points since the start of the 2014-15 season, most in the League. … Klingberg is currently on a six-game point streak, the longest for a Stars defenseman since Sergei Zubov had a nine-game point streak in 2006.

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