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Morning Skate: Niemi in goal, Eaves returns vs. Sabres

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars are in Buffalo to kick off a two-game road trip. Antti Niemi is the expected starter in goal tonight vs. the Sabres. This will be Niemi’s tenth start of the season, but just his second in the past 15 days.

The Stars will get forward Patrick Eaves back tonight. Eaves has missed the past 15 games with a lower-body injury. He is expected to skate on a line with Jason Spezza and Mattias Janmark.

“I like Patrick’s game. He’s a shooter, so he should fit well with Spezz,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “He plays a two-way game. He plays the game the right way. He knows where to be. We’re going to use him a little bit on special teams, and he is chomping at the bit to get back in here.”

Cody Eakin, who had been on the line with Spezza and Janmark, is expected to center Antoine Roussel and Valeri Nichushkin in tonight’s game.

On defense, it appears that Jyrki Jokipakka will return tonight. Jokipakka sat out the past two games while resting a lower-body issue.

The Stars come into tonight’s game on a roll. They’ve won five of their past six games and eight of their past ten. They are 14-4-0 on the season, and their 28 points are tops in the Western Conference and third in the NHL. All that adds up to extra attention from opponents.

“I think it is good for a team,” said Spezza. “It’s a challenge. It forces you to bring your best game every night. And it creates good habits because if you let your guard down you lose. It’s created good habits, pushed us to become a better team.”

Linus Ullmark will get the start in goal for the Sabres. The 22-year-old Swede is 4-2-0 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He’s won his past two starts, stopping 71 of 75 shots against Vancouver and Florida. Defenseman Zach Bogosian returns for Buffalo tonight. He’s missed the first 17 games of the season with a lower-body injury. Buffalo will be without forward Zemgus Girgensons, who suffered an upper-body injury in Saturday’s overtime loss to San Jose.

Who: Dallas Stars at Buffalo Sabres

Where: First Niagara Center

When: 6:00 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Colton Sceviour- Vernon FiddlerAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinValeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak

Conditioning: Patrik Nemeth

Injured: None

Matt Moulson – Ryan O'Reilly – Brian Gionta

Johan Larsson – Jack Eichel – Tyler Ennis

Marcus Foligno – Tim Schaller – Sam Reinhart

Nicolas Deslauriers – David Legwand – Jamie McGinn

Josh Gorges – Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe – Zach Bogosian

Mark Pysyk – Cody Franson

Linus Ullmark

Chad Johnson

Injured: Zemgus Girgensons (upper body), Evander Kane (knee), Cody McCormick (blood clot), Robin Lehner (lower body)

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo

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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