Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Dallas Stars at this morning’s skate in Philadelphia, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight for the Flyers.
Ruff indicated Monday that this was a scheduled start for Niemi, who has better numbers in his career against the Flyers than Kari Lehtonen. Niemi is 2-1-0 vs. the Flyers with a 1.83 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Lehtonen is 1-10-3 against Philadelphia with a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage.
This will be Niemi’s third start of the season, but his first in a week-and-a-half. He stopped 37 shots in a 3-0 shutout win over Pittsburgh opening night and then stopped 22 of 28 shots in a 6-3 loss to Colorado on Oct. 10.
It doesn’t appear there will be any other changes in the lineup for the Stars, who are expected to roll out the same line combinations and defense pairs used in Saturday’s 4-2 win at Florida.
That means that defensemen Jamie Oleksiak and Patrick Nemeth are expected to be healthy scratches for a sixth straight game.
“We are going pretty good,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “There’s a competition to stay in, and there’s a competition to get in. I feel like there is no reason to change it right now. I want the guys that got the job done to go out and do it again.”
The Stars come into tonight’s game riding a three-game winning streak, including victories in the first two games of their four-game road trip.
“I’ve liked the way we’ve been able to find ways to win,” Ruff said. “But we’ve got a ways to go. We are still a work in progress. For me, it’s the battle to get back in it and the battle to end up winning games. The games last year kind of went the other way and we’ve been able to find a way and turn it and put the game in our favor.”
The Stars come into tonight’s game the top scoring team in the league, averaging 3.8 goals per game. They’ll face a Flyers team that hasn’t allowed a goal in the past two games.
“They’ve been playing some great hockey,” Stars center Tyler Seguin said of the Flyers. “They had a wake-up call against Florida (7-1 loss last week), and we had a wake-up call against Colorado (6-3 loss Oct. 10). Since then both teams have been playing better hockey, obviously better defensively. I don’t know if they’ve let in a goal the last couple games, so obviously we have our hands full tonight.”
Steve Mason, who missed a couple games due to personal reasons, will be back in goal tonight for the Flyers. Philadelphia has won two straight games, both by shutout. They’ll face a good test in the high-scoring Stars.
“[The Stars] have a lot to throw at you,” Mason told the Flyers official site on Monday. “A ton of offensive power; speed off the rush. Real creative players. They added [Patrick] Sharp this offseason, I’m not sure what line he’s playing on right now, but I think [Jason] Spezza’s on their second line. He’s a world class player that has a ton of skill and can make you pay. They just come in waves and waves. You look at their defense; they’re real solid back there as well. They made the move for [Antti] Niemi in the offseason. So you just look at their team, and they just keep coming at you. That’ll be a really good test for us with all the speed that they have.”
Who: Dallas Stars at Philadelphia Flyers
Where: Wells Fargo Center
When: 6:30 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Network
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Vernon Fiddler – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Mattias Janmark – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Travis Moen (upper body), Curtis McKenzie (lower body), Patrick Eaves (lower body)
Flyers projected lineup
Michael Raffl – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Matt Read – Sean Couturier – Wayne Simmonds
Sam Gagner – Scott Laughton – Brayden Schenn
Chris VandeVelde – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Ryan White
Mark Streit – Nick Schultz
Michael Del Zotto – Brandon Manning
Evgeny Medvedev – Radko Gudas
Scratched: Luke Schenn, Vincent Lecavalier, Injured: R.J. Umberger
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.