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Niemi in goal, Roussel returns as Stars take on Maple Leafs

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars kick off a three-game homestand tonight when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at American Airlines Center. The Stars have won three straight games, but they have lost their past three games to the Maple Leafs, including a 4-1 defeat in Toronto last Monday.

Antti Niemi will get the start in goal tonight. It will be his first start in goal since last Monday when he stopped 22 of 26 shots in the loss to Toronto. Kari Lehtonen will get the night off after three straight strong starts. This will be Niemi’s ninth start. Lehtonen has started seven games.

“[The goaltending plan has] worked out well,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think both goaltenders have played a good amount. They’ve both had runs they’ve been on. The schedule’s getting busier now. We definitely have a plan, and we’ll try to stick to it.”

Antoine Roussel will be back in the lineup tonight. Roussel has missed the last two games after suffering an upper-body injury against Boston last Tuesday.

“He was a little bit banged up, missed a game because he was banged up,” Ruff said. “I chose to keep him out (Sunday) just to see if we could get him even healthier.”

The Stars had an optional skate this morning, so there were no line rushes. Roussel skated on a line with Radek Faksa and Valeri Nichushkin in Monday’s practice, so that’s where he could play tonight.

“Energy, the work ethic, the penalty killing, we know what he brings,” Ruff said. “You don’t have to ask for Antoine to work hard. He’s a workaholic when it comes to getting on the ice, and I expect more of the same.”

With Roussel back in, Devin Shore is expected to be the healthy scratch at forward. Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth skated late this morning and are expected to be scratched on defense.

Quotable: Lindy Ruff on Valeri Nichushkin’s recent play

“I think it’s gone from frustration to really liking playing again. There was a good period to start the season where he wasn’t having fun playing the game, and the game wasn’t going his way. But I can tell he feels a lot better on the ice, and he looks a lot stronger. He looks like the Val of season one, where he dominated on the puck, he hung onto pucks. He’s made some great plays. The Carolina play, his own rebound to score in Detroit, to hang onto the puck in that shift, to go around Chara in Boston. Now I can list countless plays. If you asked me to go back to the first five or six games, I’m hard pressed to find those plays. If he keeps playing the way he is, we’ve got a dynamite player.”

Maple Leafs watch

James Reimer will get the start in goal tonight for Toronto. Reimer is 2-2-2 this season with a 2.57 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. He stopped 43 of 44 shots in Toronto’s 4-1 win over the Stars last week.

“I think he’s playing more confident,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “Reims has played well for us. He’s given up a few squeakers he’d like to have back. In saying that though, he’s battled and I think as he’s battled, he’s looking more comfortable. The puck’s sticking to him better. It’s not coming off him all the time and that’s a comfort thing, so good for him.”

Defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who missed Monday’s practice due to illness, skated this morning and is expected to play tonight.

Toronto comes into tonight’s game with points in three of their past four games (1-1-2).

Tuesday’s game

Who: Toronto Maple Leafs 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- Tyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkCody EakinJason Spezza

Ales HemskyVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaValeri Nichushkin

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Devin Shore

Injured: Patrick Eaves (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Curtis McKenzie (hip)

Maple Leafs projected lineup

James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov

Shawn Matthias – Tyler Bozak – P.A. Parenteau

Nick Spaling – Peter Holland - Joffrey Lupul

Michael Grabner – Byron Froese – Brad Boyes

Matt Hunwick – Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner – Dion Phaneuf

Scott Harrington – Roman Polak

James Reimer

Antoine Bibeau

Injured: Jonathan Bernier (lower body), Stephane Robidas (leg/groin), Daniel Winnik (lower body).

Scratched: Frank Corrado, Martin Marincin

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