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Illness sidelines Hudler again

Niemi expected in goal tonight as Stars take on Blues

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars will be down another forward for tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center. Jiri Hudler is not expected to play due to illness.

Hudler missed five games due to illness, was back in the lineup for the past two games but is going out again.

"Jiri is not feeling well again," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's on the heels of what he has had before. We are just waiting to see the test results. It's just wait and see."

The Stars, who now have five forwards out due to injury or illness, are down to 12 healthy forwards on the roster. Curtis McKenzie, who was a healthy scratch the last game, should be back in tonight. He skated on the fourth line with Gemel Smith and Adam Cracknell during this morning's skate. Brett Ritchie moved into Hudler's spot on the line with Devin Shore and Lauri Korpikoski.

The Stars are expected to go with the same six defensemen as last game. Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak skated late, so they are expected to be tonight's healthy scratches.

Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight vs. the Blues. Niemi had a strong game in Tuesday's 3-2 overtime loss at Columbus, stopping 25 of 28 shots. Niemi is 2-0-0 at home this season with a 2.00 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.

The Stars (3-4-2) come into tonight's game on a three-game losing streak and with five losses in their past six games. Tuesday's loss in Columbus was tough. The Blue Jackets tied the game with 15.1 seconds left in regulation and then won it 46 seconds into overtime. Still, the Stars see their game trending in the right direction despite the lack of results.

"The last two games have been more the way we want to play," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "It was an unfortunate result the last game, but I liked the way we played, and we have to continue that tonight."

The Stars have scored just six goals over the past five games. The opportunities have started to come recently, but not the finish.

"Our last two games have been a lot better. We've got a lot more pucks to the net. The system stuff has been better, too," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "It's been a lot better, but we want to score more. Just get some more offense in our game and just try to play the same way. If you follow your game plan, you are going to win games."

And the Stars could use some wins as they kick off a stretch of four straight games against Central Division foes. They play St. Louis tonight, take on Chicago in a home-and-home series Saturday and Sunday and then play at Winnipeg Tuesday.

"You just have to live one game at a time," Ruff said. "I think we were in a better place a game ago and I hope we are in a better place after the game tonight. We'll deal with it, move it aside and move on. Chicago is a long ways away. For us, we have to maintain a certain level of play, and I really believe in the past couple games we've got our game in a lot better place. We were a few seconds away from putting a win in the bank [in Columbus], and we've got to finish the job against a very good team and then move on again."

Video: Ruff on Hudler's status

Blues Watch

Jake Allen will get the start in goal tonight for St. Louis. Allen is 4-2-2 with 2.22 goals-against average and .910. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who missed Wednesday's practice with a lower-body issue, will be in the lineup tonight. The Blues are coming off a 5-0 loss to the New York Rangers Tuesday. Like the Stars, the Blues have been struggling to score, tallying one goal or fewer in six of their past seven games.

Tonight's Game

Who: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Curtis McKenzie - Gemel Smith - Adam Cracknell

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Jiri Hudler (illness), Patrick Sharp (concussion-like symptoms), Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)

Blues Projected Lineup

Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Nail Yakupov
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko

Jake Allen
Carter Hutton

Scratched: Ty Rattie, Brad Hunt, Dimitri Jaskin
Injured: Robert Bortuzzo (lower body)

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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