Antti Niemi will make his first start of the preseason when the Dallas Stars take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in preseason play at American Airlines Center.
“I am excited to play the first game for the Stars obviously. I am excited to play. It’s been a while,” said Niemi, acquired from San Jose at the NHL Draft in June. “I think there is going to be an adjustment to everything, but for me it’s more about how I perform. Tonight, I want to feel good out there and see the puck well.”
Niemi and Kari Lehtonen will be vying for playing time in the Dallas net this season, but Niemi isn’t approaching tonight’s start as an audition for the regular season opener.
“I’m not focusing on that, but it is probably a little bit of that,” Niemi said. “Still it is the preseason, and we are focusing on getting ready for the season. It’s more about feeling good out there and seeing the puck for the goalies, I feel.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff likes what he has seen from Niemi so far in training camp.
“He’s an incredibly hard worker, battles on every opportunity,” Ruff said. “It will be nice to see him in game action.”
Niemi is expected to play the entire game tonight. Jack Campbell will serve as the backup.
The Stars will still have a lot of youth in the lineup tonight, but Tyler Seguin will center the top line with Patrick Sharp and Cody Eakin on his wings. The Stars will also play what is expected to be their top defensive pairing of Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg.
“I am hoping to see a little more offensive punch. I think our backend is a little more creative than the other night (6-0 loss at St. Louis Thursday), too,” Ruff said.
Ully to get first NHL preseason game
Forward Cole Ully, who has made an impression during training camp, will get in his first NHL preseason game tonight vs. Tampa Bay. Ully is expected to play right wing on a line with center Justin Dowling and left wing Gemel Smith.
“It’s exciting for sure. To see my name on the board yesterday was awesome,” Ully said. “I am just excited to get in a game. Being at home, it should be fun.”
This is the first NHL training camp for Ully, a fifth-round pick (131st overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft.
“I am just trying to soak it all in,” Ully said. “It’s really cool being around the older guys, seeing how they prepare and what they do, how they play the game and practice. For myself, I’ve been doing well and enjoying it.”
Ully is coming off a stellar junior career with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. Last season he ranked fifth in the league in scoring with 94 points (34 goals, 60 assists) in 69 games. He’s continued to score this past month, tallying two goals in four games for Dallas at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City. He registered a two-goal game during a Stars training camp scrimmage in Cedar Park. And he’s caught the eye of Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
“His camp was good. It surprised me,” Ruff said. “He’s just got a knack for scoring and a knack for being in the right place. I think after the camp he has had he deserves to play. I just want to give him a look.”
Saturday night’s game
Who: Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
Online: Audio only (Josh Bogorad and Stu Barnes calling game) on dallasstars.com
Stars projected lineup
Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel – Devin Shore – Brendan Ranford
Gemel Smith – Justin Dowling – Cole Ully
Derek Hulak – Radek Faksa – Matej Stransky
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Patrik Nemeth – Stephen Johns
Esa Lindell – Julius Honka
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.