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Morning Skate: Jordie Benn not expected to play, Niemi in goal vs. Sabres

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

It appears the Dallas Stars will have to make a change on defense tonight when they take on the Buffalo Sabres at American Airlines Center. Jordie Benn did not skate due to illness this morning, and he is unlikely to play against the Sabres.

Benn is one of a small group of players who were ill on Friday

“He’s the one guy that’s not doing very well, so I wouldn’t anticipate him playing,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

As for the other players who were feeling ill Friday, they are doing better according to Ruff.

With Benn out, Jamie Oleksiak will draw on in defense tonight and take Benn’s spot on the third pair with Jyrki Jokipakka. This will be Oleksiak’s fifth game of the season. He’s been a healthy scratch 16 times.

“It’s hard. We’ve been going pretty good, and when you’re only spotted in, it’s hard to find your game,” Ruff said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to work extremely hard to try to improve. I’ve told him his practices have to be his games. Sometimes that can be annoying for the forward they’re playing against, but you have to turn that into game conditioning and your habits in practice have to be better than the guys that are playing. I think some days there’s some disappointment I can see in him, and there're other days where he really digs in. So tonight’s another chance to prove he can be in the lineup.”

There are no changes expected among the forwards. The Stars likely will go with the same line combinations as last game. Travis Moen will sit out as a healthy scratch.

Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so he is expected to get the start tonight. It will be his 11th start of the season. Niemi stopped 24 of 25 shots in the Stars’ 3-1 win at Buffalo on Tuesday.

The Sabres have played one game since that loss to the Stars, falling 3-2 in a shootout to St. Louis on Thursday.

“They had the upper hand on St. Louis and probably if they’d scored on one of their 5-on-3 (power plays) would’ve won a hockey game,” Ruff said. “They have a big defense. It’s tough to get inside. They’ve got some extremely skilled forwards now. We’ve got to be aware of them and at the same time, we’ve got to be sure we’re putting the puck in the right places.”

The Stars saw Linus Ullmark in goal in Tuesday’s game against the Sabres. Tonight they’ll see Chad Johnson, who is 4-6-1 this season with a 2.67 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. Forward Evander Kane is back in the lineup for the Sabres. He returned Thursday after missing ten games with a knee injury. The Sabres have dropped three straight games (0-1-2) but they have points in five of the last six (3-1-2). Tonight, they’ll be looking for a way to slow down the Stars.

“I think this is the fastest team, and it’s the fastest playing team and the fastest executing team. I don’t know if you can slow them down,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “I don’t know if it’s something you can totally take away from them, but we’ve talked about wanting this to be a stationary game. We want to be stationary in our offensive zone. That’s the best place to make this game just be a one-zone game, not something that goes up and down the ice with the speed that they have.”

Who: Buffalo Sabres at Dallas Stars

Where: American Airlines Center

When: 7:00 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinValeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJamie Oleksiak

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Jordie Benn (illness)

Scratched: Travis Moen

Conditioning: Patrik Nemeth

Matt Moulson – Ryan O’Reilly – Brian Gionta

Evander Kane – Jack Eichel – Tyler Ennis

Marcus Foligno – Johan Larsson – Sam Reinhart

Nicolas Deslauriers – David Legwand – Jamie McGinn

Josh Gorges – Rasmus Ristolainen

Zach Bogosian - Jake McCabe

Carlo Colaiacovo – Cody Franson

Chad Johnson

Linus Ullmark

Injured: Zemgus Girgensons (upper body), Robin Lehner (ankle), Cody McCormick (blood clot), Mark Pysyk (lower body), Mike Weber (knee)

Scratched: Tim Schaller

This story was not subject to the 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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