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Niemi in goal as Stars face Coyotes

Oleksiak, Johns expected back in on defense as Stars open three-game homestand

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars are expected to make a few lineup changes as they open a three-game homestand tonight against the Arizona Coyotes at American Airlines Center.

Jamie Oleksiak and Stephen Johns are expected to be back in the lineup on defense. Oleksiak missed the past two games with a lower-body injury and Johns has been a healthy scratch the past few games. Greg Pateryn and Patrik Nemeth skated late this morning, so they are the expected scratches.

Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice at this morning's skate at the AAC, so he will get the start in goal tonight. This will be just Niemi's second start in the past eleven games. He was solid in stopping 22 of 24 shots in a 2-0 loss to Boston on March 30.

The Stars will go with the same 12 forwards as last game. There was some hope that Ales Hemsky could return to the lineup tonight. The Stars sent Justin Dowling back to the AHL yesterday anticipating Hemsky's return but had to recall Dowling when it turned out Hemsky wasn't ready to go. And now it appears Hemsky won't in any of the season's final three games.

"Ales felt he would be available, but after further exams, he can't play," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "He won't play the rest of the week. He's been playing through some pain."

It appears Jiri Hudler won't play for the rest of the season as well. Hudler, who has missed the past six games with a groin injury, isn't even skating.

Ruff said Curtis McKenzie, who is out with an eye injury, is doubtful to return before the end of the season.

Antoine Roussel, who has been out 15 games with a hand injury, took part in this morning's skate wearing a red no-contact jersey.

Olympic reaction

Both players and coaches with the Stars expressed disappointment over the NHL's decision not to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The NHL announced the decision Monday.

"I grew up with it, so I am a little bit disappointed," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "For a lot of Swedes, it is a tough decision because the Olympics is a really big thing back in Sweden."

Stars coach Lindy Ruff has been on Team Canada's coaching staff at both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.

"It's a disappointment for me being involved in two of them," Ruff said. "It's a huge showcase event where every player gets to represent his country. It's become a real elite event, and it's become a major focus at the Winter Olympics. I think it is something that is going to be missed."

Coyotes Watch

Mike Smith will get the start in goal for Arizona tonight. He is 19-25-8 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Arizona will be without leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata tonight due to a lower-body injury. Arizona comes into tonight's game with wins in each of its last two games.

Tonight's Game

Who: Arizona Coyotes at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie
Gemel Smith - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Jason Dickinson - Justin Dowling - Adam Cracknell

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Julius Honka
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Greg Pateryn
Injured: Curtis McKenzie (eye), Antoine Roussel (hand), Ales Hemsky (hip), Jiri Hudler (groin), Patrick Sharp (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)

This story was not subject to 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.

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