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Antti Niemi in goal tonight against Toronto

Jiri Hudler returns to the lineup as Stars open two-game road trip

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

After two days of practice and some travel, the Dallas Stars get back at it tonight. This time they are on the road, taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Tonight's game kicks off a two-game road trip and a stretch that will see the Stars play five of their next six games away from home. The road has been bumpy this season for the Stars, who are 7-13-4 and allowing a league-high 3.71 goals per game away from home.

"Well, we have to play better defensively. There's a lot of good stuff inside the game that we've done, but again, defensively, we have to play better," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

The Stars are expected to make a couple of lineup changes tonight. Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal. This will be the first start since Jan. 26 for Niemi, who has been pulled in each of his past three starts. In those three starts, he has allowed eleven goals on 36 shots for a .694 save percentage.

"It's something he'll work through," Ruff said about Niemi late last week. "For me, he's just got to go in there and play."

Video: All the focus is on the rookies in Toronto

Ruff said Jiri Hudler will play tonight. This will be Hudler's first game since Jan. 19 at the New York Islanders.

"It's been a tough year for him," Ruff said. "He missed a good couple months being sick and recently he had a personal leave for a few days. Now, we feel we have him back up and running, and we are going to get him back in there."

It's not clear which forward will come out of the lineup.

The Stars (21-22-10) come into tonight's game five points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Maple Leafs Watch

Curtis McElhinney will get the start in goal for the Maple Leafs, who are coming off a 6-5 overtime loss to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn last night. It was the fourth loss in the past five games (1-3-1) for Toronto. Among those five games, in which the Maple Leafs have surrendered 22 goals, was a 6-3 loss in Dallas on Jan. 31.

"Pretty ugly for us," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "They slapped us around pretty good. It was a river hockey game where we weren't very good."

The Maple Leafs (24-17-10) are in third place in the Atlantic Division, tied with Boston at 58 points but with four fewer games played.

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Toronto Maple Leafs
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Air Canada Centre
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Lauri Korpikoski - Adam Cracknell - Curtis McKenzie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth - Stephen Johns

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Curtis McKenzie, Julius Honka
Injured: Jason Spezza (upper body), Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)

Maple Leafs Projected Lineup

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitchell Marner
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Matt Martin - Ben Smith - Nikita Soshnikov

Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak

Curtis McElhinney
Frederik Andersen

Scratched: Alexey Marchenko, Josh Leivo, Martin Marincin
Injured: None

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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