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Morning Skate: Niemi in goal as Stars face Avalanche

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars aren’t expected to make any lineup changes as they take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight at American Airlines Center.

Antti Niemi will get a second straight start in goal, and the Stars will go with the same forwards and defensemen used in Thursday’s game against Edmonton.

The Stars, who defeated the Oilers 3-2 to snap a four-game losing streak, will be looking to win consecutive games for the first time since they won three straight Dec. 19-22.

They’ll be facing a stiff challenge in Colorado, which has won ten of the last eleven games against the Stars, including a 6-3 victory in Denver back on Oct. 10. And the Avalanche are on a roll right now, winning four of their past five games and allowing just five goals.

“Well, we didn’t play very well [in the October game],” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think you’ve got to deal with most recently, they’ve been playing tight games, keeping scores pretty low, so I think we can anticipate more today.”

“They played last night (against St. Louis), so they’re going to obviously be ready to come out strong,” said Stars center Cody Eakin. “We’ve got to not get into a wide-open game with them. They’re a fast, high-offensive team. They’ve got guys that can really change the game before you know it, so play smart, play hard, puck possession and not give them a chance to wind up and use their speed.”

The Stars held an optional skate this morning, so there were no line rushes. Chances are they’ll go with the same line combinations and defense pairs as last game. Esa Lindell, called up from the AHL earlier in the week, will play his third straight game and is expected to be paired with Jyrki Jokipakka again.

“He’s played well. I think the second game, I thought he was even more comfortable,” Ruff said of Lindell. “I thought that pair had a good night for us (against Edmonton). He’s got a good stick, he’s got good awareness, so I thought inside his own end he played well.”

Patrik Nemeth and Travis Moen both skated late this morning, so they are the expected healthy scratches. Jordie Benn remains out with a lower-body injury and Jamie Oleksiak remains on his conditioning assignment in the AHL.


The Avalanche played at home last night, defeating St. Louis, 2-1, in a shootout. Semyon Varlamov, who stopped 33 shots in last night’s win, is expected to start again tonight. Colorado has won three straight and four of its past five games and is 16-7-2 since Dec. 1. Defenseman Erik Johnson, who has missed the past nine games with a lower-body injury, is expected to return tonight. Blake Comeau will return as well. He missed Friday’s game to be with his wife, who gave birth to the couple’s first child.


Who: Colorado Avalanche 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

Valeri NichushkinCody EakinJason Spezza

Antoine RousselMattias JanmarkAles Hemsky

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves


Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Esa LindellJyrki Jokipakka


Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen


Injured:
Jordie Benn (lower body)

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen

Conditioning: Jamie Oleksiak


Alex Tanguay – Nathan MacKinnon – Matt Duchene

Gabriel Landeskog – Carl Soderberg – Blake Comeau

Andreas Martinsen – Mikhail Grigorenko – Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod – John Mitchell – Jack Skille


Francois Beauchemin – Erik Johnson

Nick Holden – Tyson Barrie

Zach Redmond – Chris Bigras


Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard


Injured: Reto Berra (ankle), Ben Street (chest), Mark Stuart (back), Jesse Winchester (head)

Scratched: Nate Guenin, Chris Wagner

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.

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