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Morning Skate: Niemi in goal as Stars face Red Wings

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

With the NHL’s trade deadline looming, it was business as usual at the Dallas Stars morning skate at American Airlines Center.

“I don’t say anything different,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I know there’s a huge awareness by the players. They know what’s going on, they see the action the last few days around the league, so my job is just as steady as it goes. We keep everything in our game day routine the same.”

But not long after the skate the Stars cut a deal, acqurining defenseman Kris Russell from Calgary for defenseman Jyrki Jokipaka, forward prospect Brett Pollock and a conditional second-round pick in 2016. The 28-year-old Russell, a nine-year NHL veteran, brings solid defensive game and puck moving ability.

“Kris is ultra-competitive and a solid two-way defensemen," said Stars GM Jim Nill. "He will bring a steadying presence to our blueline and we feel he will help us improve in several areas.”

Russell told Sportsnet he is looking forward to playing with the fast-paced Stars.

“It’s a different style and a different team, and I’m looking forward to it,” Russell said. “I’m going to try to do anything I can to help them, and if it’s blocking shots, then I’ll try and do that. But it’ll be nice to have the puck a little bit more.”

But the focus this morning at the AAC was tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings and getting back on track. The Stars come into tonight’s game with two losses in the first two games of their three-game homestand. They are 1-4-1 in their past six games overall.

They are coming off a tough 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday where they tied the game with 4:01 remaining but then gave up the game-winning goal with 2:58 left.

“[After giving up six goals or more in three of the four previous games], the game Saturday against New York was a step in the right direction,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin.

Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight against Detroit. Niemi is coming off a rough time in his last start, giving up three goals on eight shots and getting pulled after one period in a 6-3 loss to Winnipeg on Thursday. Since the All-Star break, Niemi is 4-2-0 with a 3.84 goals-against average and .862 save percentage.

The Stars will go with the same group of forwards as last game, but Ruff switched up his lines in the morning skate. Patrick Sharp was back on the top line with Seguin and Jamie Benn. Jason Spezza centered Mattias Janmark and Valeri Nichushkin. Ales Hemsky, who left Saturday’s game due to illness, skated this morning and was on a line with Antoine Roussel and Cody Eakin.

“Ales is OK,” Ruff said. “He was checked out, felt better yesterday. It turned out to be nothing serious.”

Travis Moen will be the odd-man out at forward.

Patrik Nemeth and Jordie Benn will be the third pair on defense. Jamie Oleksiak will sit out as a scratch.


Jimmy Howard is expected to get the start in goal tonight for the Red Wings. Howard is 7-9-5 this season with a 2.82 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. The Red Wings have won two straight and are riding a four-game points streak (2-0-2).

"Obviously [the Stars] are one of the best teams in the NHL, certainly one of the most powerful. They’ve been that all season long, so we know it’s a heck of a challenge,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “We’re just going to focus on ourselves and playing as good as hockey as we can.”


Who: Detroit Red Wings at Dallas Stars

Where: American Airlines Center

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM


Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselCody Eakin – Ales Hemksy

Radek FaksaVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour


Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn


Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen


Injured:
Patrick Eaves (illness)

Scratched: Kris Russell, Jamie Oleksiak, Travis Moen


Henrik Zetterberg – Pavel Datsyuk – Justin Abdelkader

Gustav Nyquist – Rich Sheahan – Tomas Tatar

Dylan Larkin – Andreas Athanasiou – Brad Richards

Darren Helm – Luke Glendening – Tomas Jurco


Danny DeKeyser – Kyle Quincey

Niklas Kronwall – Alexey Marchenko

Jonathan Ericsson – Mike Green


Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek


Injured: Johan Franzen (concussion-like symptoms), Drew Miller (knee).

Scratched: Teemu Pulkkinen, Brendan Smith.

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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