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Morning Skate: Projected lineups, notes for Stars vs. Blues

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars get back at it following the NHL’s holiday break, playing the St. Louis Blues in a home-and-home back-to-back. The first game is tonight at St. Louis and the two teams will meet again tomorrow at American Airlines Center.

The Stars (26-7-2-54 points) have an eight-point lead over the Blues (21-11-4-46 points) in the Central Division with one game in hand, so there are big points at stake this weekend. The Stars have a chance to create some separation and the Blues have an opportunity to close the gap.

“I like [the back-to-back against the same team],” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think it creates a competitive edge, almost a playoff atmosphere. There will be some blood that spills over from tonight to tomorrow. That’s good for the game.”

With both teams coming off a three-day break and no practice time, it’s anybody’s guess as to what kind of game it will be.

“Sometimes you can get a solid game and sometimes you can get a pretty loosely contested game,” Ruff said.

Tonight’s game will be the Stars’ second game against the Blues. They lost 3-0 in St. Louis back on Dec. 12. They were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and got off to a rough start, getting outshot 17-5 in the first period and falling behind 1-0 two minutes into the game. They’ll look to turn things around this time.

“Last time, we had a tough start, and we didn’t even score a goal. For us, today, we want to show we are a better team,” said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. “We play two games in two days, so today we want to set the tone.”

Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal. He is 3-0-0 in his past three games, stopping 71 of 74 shots. Niemi is 15-5-2 this season with a 2.30 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

The Stars are expected to roll out the same forward line combinations and defense pairs used in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Chicago at American Airlines Center. Jamie Oleksiak and Patrick Nemeth are the expected scratches on defense and Travis Moen is the expected scratch at forward.

Jake Allen will get the start in goal tonight for the Blues. Allen shut out the Stars on Dec. 12, stopping 26 shots in St. Louis’ 3-0 win. Allen has posted shutouts in his last two starts against the Stars dating back to last season and has a 156:15 shutout streak against the Stars.

The Blues play back-to-back games against the Stars this weekend and then take on two more Central Division foes – Nashville (Tuesday) and Minnesota (Thursday).

“It’s not an easy schedule to come back to but it’s one that gets us right into the game right away,” Allen told the Blues official site. “No excuses, just get out there, grind and get back to our game.”

Who: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues

Where: Scottrade Center

When: 7:00 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinColton Sceviour

Mattias JanmarkVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen

Injured: None

Magnus Paajarvi - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen - David Backes - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Scottie Upshall

Jordan Caron - Dmitrij Jaskin - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Colton Parayko - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson - Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Joel Edmundson

Injured: Patrik Berglund (shoulder) Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Steve Ott (hamstring), Kyle Brodziak (lower body)

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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