The Stars held an optional skate this morning in Minnesota as they prepared to take on the Wild tonight in the second game of a back-to-back.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff wouldn’t indicate who would start in goal tonight, but Antti Niemi worked out off the ice instead of skating, an indication that he could be in goal against the Wild. Ruff said there were no concerns if Niemi started back-to-back games.
“I think when these guys get rolling they are so used to playing back-to-back, five in nine and seven in 12,” Ruff said. “It’s not like our goalies have been overworked.”
Ruff said there’s always a possibility he could make a change on defense, and it appears that Patrik Nemeth could be coming in tonight. Nemeth came off the ice early while Jyrki Jokipakka skated late with Jamie Oleksiak and Travis Moen, indicating Jokipakka could sit out tonight as a scratch.
Nemeth is coming off a conditioning assignment with the Texas Stars of the AHL, where he played eight games over two weeks. This would be Nemeth’s third NHL game of the season and his first since Nov. 2.
“I think he started maybe a little bit slow [in the AHL] but by the end, was feeling pretty good,” Ruff said. “Was moving his feet good, looked more like the Patrik we’re used to seeing.”
Oleksiak would be the other scratch on defense. Moen is expected to be the scratch at forward. That means the Stars will go with the same 12 forwards they used in Saturday’s win against Vancouver.
Tonight’s game is the second back-to-back of the season for the Stars, who played last night and went to a shootout against the Canucks and then had to travel. Minnesota is on a back-to-back as well, but the Wild played yesterday afternoon at home.
“There is a little difference time-wise and travel-wise. They’re going to be in bed a little bit sooner than we are, which is a little bit of an advantage,” Ruff said. “But at the same time, we are going to give our team as much rest, get them here and get them going. It’s going to come down to the will to battle and compete. In that small time frame, I don’t think there is that big a difference.”
Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, traveled with the team to Minnesota. He took part in Saturday morning’s optional skate at Xcel Energy Center. Lehtonen was injured in Tuesday’s game against Ottawa when he collided with Stars defenseman John Klingberg.
Darcy Kuemper will get the start in goal tonight for the Wild. This will be the third start of the season for Kuemper, who is 0-0-1 with a 4.34 goals-against average and .891 save percentage. The Wild, who lost 3-1 to Winnipeg on Friday, come into tonight’s game with five losses in their past six games (1-4-1).
“I am really anxious to see how we respond here as a group,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We haven’t been playing our type of game. We have been too easy to play against, and there is a way you have to respond and it’s not about trying to go out and be a hero. It’s about going out and doing the little things, so it will be a good test for us.”
Who: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild
Where: Xcel Energy Center
When 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Valeri Nichushkin
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Patrik Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Injured: Kari Lehtonen (upper body)
Scratched: Travis Moen, Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Charlie Coyle – Justin Fontaine
Chris Porter – Erik Haula – Ryan Carter
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Gustav Olofsson – Nate Prosser
Injured: Marco Scandella (lower body), Tyler Graovac (sports hernia)
Scratched: Niklas Backstrom, Jordan Schroeder, Kurtis Gabriel
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.