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Morning Skate: Niemi in goal as Stars look to close out Wild

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars will look to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight when they take on the Minnesota Wild at American Airlines Center. The Stars come into tonight’s game with a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and want to make the most of their first opportunity to close out the series.

“I’ve always said when you have a chance to get it done, you’ve got to get it done because when you don’t all it does is it shifts momentum the other direction,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

Not getting it done would shift momentum to the Wild and set up a Game 6 in Minnesota. The Stars want to avoid that, but they know the Wild will be desperate with their season on the line.

“A chance to close it out. We’re excited to be back home, and we know we’re going to get a good effort from them,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “You’re playing against a team that’s looking to try to stay alive. They’re going to throw everything at us. We’ve had to make some adjustments the last couple games, but for the most part, we just got to play our game. We’re happy to be back home, use the crowd to our advantage and try to win the special teams battle again.”

Home ice has been big for the Stars this season. They had the second best home record in the league at 28-11-2 (58 points) and come into tonight’s game with eight straight wins at American Airlines Center, including their final six home games of the regular season and the first two of the playoffs.

“We just want to come out tonight with a strong effort, try and close this thing out,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “Obviously, we’ve had a pretty good record in this home building, so it’s up to us to come out with a strong effort and see what we can do.”

Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice this morning for the Stars, so he is expected to get a second straight start.

The Stars did not run lines or defense pairings, but it appears they will go with the same 12 forwards and six defensemen as last game. It’s not clear if Ruff will go with the lines he switched to in the middle of Wednesday’s game, which included putting Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza on the same line, or if he will go with the lines from the start of the game.

Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak and Travis Moen all skated late this morning, so they are expected to be tonight’s healthy scratches.

Tyler Seguin remains out with an issue related to his previous Achilles tendon injury.

The Wild will make a few lineup changes tonight as they try to extend the series to a sixth game. Jordan Schroeder will make his series debut. He should add some speed to the lineup. Veteran center Jarret Stoll could draw back in as well. Devan Dubnyk will get the start in goal.

It’s do or die for the Wild tonight.

“We have to lay it all out for sure,” said Wild forward Jason Pominville. “We have our backs against the wall. We’ve been in this position before where we have to find ways to win, and we have to do it on the road. We would have had to have won a game here anyway, so we might as well do it tonight and go from there.”

Who: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars

Where: American Airlines Center

When: 8:30 p.m.

TV: FOX Sports Southwest, NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaStephen Johns

Kris RussellJason Demers

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Tyler Seguin (lower body)

Scratched: Travis Moen, Jordie Benn, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu – David Jones

Jason Zucker – Charlie Coyle – Jordan Schroeder

Nino Niederreiter – Erik Haula – Jason Pominville

Chris Porter – Jarret Stoll – Kurtis Gabriel

Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella – Nate Prosser

Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Injured: Zach Parise (back), Thomas Vanek (upper body).

Scratched: Ryan Carter, Zac Dalpe, Christian Folin, Justin Fontaine, Mike Reilly.

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 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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