Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Dallas Stars this morning in Toronto, so it appears he will get the start tonight against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
Tonight’s start will be the fourth straight for Niemi and the sixth in the past seven games. Niemi is on a personal five-game winning streak and is 6-1-0 for the season with a 2.61 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
“It’s his work ethic. He fits in with this group of guys,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Niemi. “I’ve always said we are a quick team and a hardworking team and it is hard to match his work ethic. Before practice and after practice, he is an extremely hardworking goaltender.”
It appears Ruff will juggle his lines for tonight’s game. Jason Spezza centered Radek Faksa and Ales Hemsky this morning, and Cody Eakin had Mattias Janmark and Valeri Nichushkin on his wings. The top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp stayed intact as did the Antoine Roussel, Vernon Fiddler and Colton Sceviour line, which had a big game in Saturday’s win over San Jose.
“We play a simple game, north-south,” Roussel said of his line. “That’s what makes us good.”
On defense, Patrik Nemeth is in tonight. It will be his second game of the season. He is expected to skate on the third pair with Jordie Benn. Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak will be the scratches on defense. Devin Shore, who was called up from the AHL on Sunday, will be the scratch at forward.
“I’ve never been more excited to be a healthy scratch in my entire life,” said Shore, who is from the Toronto area and is on his first NHL call-up. “I am thrilled to be here and the stars aligned for my first road trip in the NHL to be 30 minutes from my house. I’ll be out of the lineup tonight, but I will be in that building tonight as part of the Dallas Stars as they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s a pretty incredible feeling for me.”
The 21-year-old Shore is in his first professional season, and he is off to a great start. He’s leading the Texas Stars in scoring with 11 points (eight goals, three assists) in nine games.
“He was one of those last guys we sent down (to the AHL before the season), and these are some of the tougher cuts we’ve made,” Ruff said. “If he plays and when he plays, it is a reward for how well training camp went and how well he has played at the American League level.”
The Stars come into tonight’s game with three straight wins and eight in their last nine overall. Tonight’s game begins a stretch of four straight on the road, where they have won four in a row. They are taking on a Toronto team that has won just once in ten games (1-7-2).
“Tonight we are up against a desperate team,” Ruff said. “The challenge is to play a disciplined game where we are going to give ourselves a better chance to win it and stay away from handing the opposition those easy opportunities.”
James Reimer will get the start in goal tonight for the Maple Leafs. Jonathan Bernier got bumped around in Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh and wasn’t feeling well, according to Toronto coach Mike Babcock. Nick Spaling, who has been out the past three games with a lower-body injury, will return tonight. Brad Boyes, a scratch the past two games, could return as well.
During his morning media availability, Babcock was asked about Stars forward Jamie Benn, the league’s top scorer.
“He's not bad,” Babcock told reporters. “I'm a big fan of him because he's got some nastiness to him. He has fun playing the game; he's not scared of any situation. I like good, good pros that love being good pros. He loves to score, he loves to check, he can play any way you want. He just shows up to play. He's a good player.”
Who: Dallas Stars at Toronto Maple Leafs
Where: Air Canada Centre
When: 6:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Radek Faksa – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Mattias Janmark – Cody Eakin – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Patrik Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak, Devin Shore
Injured: Patrick Eaves (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Curtis McKenzie (hip)
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Leo Komarov
Shawn Matthias - Nazem Kadri - Joffrey Lupul
Daniel Winnik - Nick Spaling - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Byron Froese - Brad Boyes
Dion Phaneuf - Jake Gardiner
Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly
Martin Marincin - Roman Polak
Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Scott Harrington (upper body)
Scratched: Rich Clune, Peter Holland
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.