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Morning Skate: Niemi in goal again for Stars

No lineup changes expected as Stars take on Avalanche in Denver

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Antti Niemi will make a second straight start as the Dallas Stars take on the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center in Denver tonight.

Niemi was sharp in Thursday night's season opener, stopping 33 of 35 shots in a 4-2 win over Anaheim at American Airlines Center.

The Stars are not expected to make any other lineup changes tonight; they'll go with the same 12 forwards and six defensemen that played in Thursday's game. It was an optional skate this morning, so the guess is Stars coach Lindy Ruff will use the line combinations he used in the second and third period of the Anaheim game and then rolled out again in Friday's practice.

The significant changes in the game were on defense, where Ruff put Patrik Nemeth and John Klingberg together as a pair and moved Jordie Benn to the right side on a pair with Dan Hamhuis. The Johnny Oduya-Stephen Johns pair remained intact.

Ruff also moved Adam Cracknell to the third line with Antoine Roussel and Radek Faksa and that trio produced two goals, including the game-winner. The top two lines should stay the same with Tyler Seguin centering Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves, and Jason Spezza centering Patrick Sharp and Jiri Hudler.

Jamie Oleksiak, Esa Lindell and Curtis McKenzie are expected to be tonight's healthy scratches.

The Stars will look for a better start tonight. In the first period of Thursday's game they were outshot 17-1 and took four minor penalties.

"I think we worked hard [Thursday], but we didn't work smart enough at times," Ruff said. "So, stay out of the penalty box and generate some zone pressure by being good on the forecheck."

The Stars have struggled against Colorado the past three seasons, posting a 3-8-3 record including 1-6-0 in Denver.

"They play a good game against us," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "We need to come in here and try to slow them down. They are going to be buzzing because it is their first game and their home opener. We've got to keep it simple and take advantage of our opportunities."

Video: Benn, Seguin on recapturing chemistry

The Avalanche are expected to play a little differently this season under new coach Jared Bednar.

"We played them in the preseason, and I think they are more structurally sound," Benn said. "I know the guys over there are pretty happy with how their preseason went, they went undefeated, so they have some confidence. We've got to play a solid game."

Avalanche Watch

Semyon Varlamov will get the start in goal tonight for the Avalanche who are playing their season opener and their first game under new coach Jared Bednar, who led Lake Erie to the AHL's Calder Cup last season. Bednar took over after Patrick Roy abruptly quit as Avalanche coach in early August.

Colorado had an impressive preseason, posting a 6-0-0 record and allowing just five goals against. But now the real games start.

"We're excited, our whole group is excited," Bednar told media this morning. "It's our first chance to make an impression on our fans and establish our identity in our home building. With the new season there is excitement about what is hopefully coming down the road, so we want to get started."

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver
When: 8:00 p.m. (CT)
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Patrick Sharp - Jason Spezza - Jiri Hudler
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Adam Cracknell
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie

Patrik Nemeth - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Esa Lindell, Curtis McKenzie
Injured: Ales Hemsky (groin), Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee)

Avalanche Projected Lineup

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Jarome Iginla
Mikhail Grigorenko - Carl Soderberg - Matt Duchene
Gabriel Bourque - Joe Colborne - Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau - Ben Smith - Andreas Martinsen

Nikita Zadorov - Erik Johnson
Francois Beauchemin - Tyson Barrie
Fedor Tyutin - Patrick Wiercioch

Semyon Varlamov
Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Cody McLeod, Eric Gelinas
Injured: John Mitchell (Achilles)

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 DallasStars.com 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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