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Morning Skate: Niemi in goal as Stars look to shake slump in San Jose

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars held an optional skate this morning in San Jose as they prepared to take on the Sharks at SAP Center.

There also was a meeting to go over Friday’s 4-2 loss in Anaheim. The Stars gave up four first-period goals as they lost for the fifth time in the past six games (1-4-1) and lost for the sixth straight time on the road (0-4-2).

“The meeting was mainly about we’ve got to ramp up our one-on-one compete,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We didn’t win enough battles. We didn’t block enough shots, and we didn’t have enough people back at times. We are going to strip it down to square one and start again.”

Antti Niemi will get the start in goal tonight for the Stars. It will be Niemi’s first game in San Jose since the Sharks traded him to Dallas in the offseason.

“It’s been a while being on this side of the building. It was hard to find the locker room,” Niemi said.

Niemi played five seasons in San Jose. He’s already faced the Sharks once this season, stopping 26 shots in a 5-3 win in Dallas on Oct. 31.

“But coming to the city, it’s different. I’ve been [with Dallas] for a few months, so it is exciting,” Niemi said. “I am going to have fun today for sure. I know most of the [San Jose] players, maybe giving some feedback or getting some feedback from them. I am sure it is going to be fun.”

The Stars are expected to make a couple of lineup changes tonight; one at forward and one at defense. Colton Sceviour, a healthy scratch last night, is expected to be back in tonight and Patrick Eaves is expected to sit out.

On defense, Patrik Nemeth is expected to be in the lineup and Jyrki Jokipakka will be a healthy scratch.

The Stars sent defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to the Texas Stars of the AHL on a conditioning assignment. Oleksiak has been a healthy scratch in 14 of the last 15 games.

“He needs to go play,” Ruff said. “It’s the same thing with Nemeth when he went and played [in the AHL]. Jamie stepped in and had a little bit of a rough game. Just feel the only way you are going to continue to grow in this league is to play. With eight defensemen, the best thing for him is to get some valuable playing time.”

Martin Jones is the expected starter in goal tonight for the Sharks. He’s 19-13-2 with a 2.42 goals-against average and. 914 save percentage. San Jose comes into tonight’s game riding a four-game winning streak. San Jose is 7-12-0 at home but have won their last two at SAP Center, the first time they’ve put together consecutive victories at home this season. The Sharks are wary of the struggling Stars.

“I just look at it that they are going to be a very dangerous team tonight,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters. “I’d rather have a team come in here winning than losing. We know what we are dealing with; they can score goals in bunches. We have to play a real solid game away from the puck. Special teams, we have to win that battle, and we have to win the goaltending battle. We have to be right on top of our game if we want to win.”

Who: Dallas Stars at San Jose Sharks

Where: SAP Center

When: 9:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinValeri Nichushkin

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Injured: None

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Patrick Eaves

Conditioning: Jamie Oleksiak

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Joel Ward

Joonas Donskoi - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Melker Karlsson - Chris Tierney - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon - Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: Dainius Zubrus (upper body)

Scratched: Ben Smith, Matt Tennyson

Conditioning: Raffi Torres

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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