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Niemi in goal tonight vs. Canucks

Ruff tweaks lines, defense pairs; Stars assign Johns to AHL

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Antti Niemi will get the start in goal tonight when the Dallas Stars take on the Vancouver Canucks at American Airlines Center. Niemi is 4-1-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average and .932 save percentage at home this season.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Niemi's numbers at home haven't gone unnoticed.

"We've talked about that as a staff, that he has played well at home," Ruff said. "Maybe that is something we keep going further with, but it's been noticeable."

The Stars will go with the same forwards and defense as last game, but there will be some juggling. On defense, Ruff is putting Esa Lindell and John Klingberg back together, and Jordie Benn will play with Jamie Oleksiak. Dan Hamhuis and Julius Honka will play together for a third straight game.

Up front, Patrick Eaves is expected to move up to the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Cody Eakin, who had been centering Benn and Seguin, is expected to center Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza tonight.

The Stars will try to bounce back from Wednesday's 5-2 loss at Nashville. The Stars played well for a good part of the game, but mistakes proved costly.

"I'd just like to see us eliminate a couple of big mistakes," Ruff said. "For 80 percent of that game we were going really well. We have to - and this comes with the consistency - we have to eliminate the big defensive blunder, which has been really hurting us and keeping us from getting two or three wins in a row and getting rolling in the right direction."

Video: Ruff on the defensemen

Johns to AHL

The Stars assigned defenseman Stephen Johns to the AHL on Friday. Johns has been a healthy scratch the past two games and three of the past six.

"There are two things. He's struggled a little bit in his play, but we want to get him playing. We are going to get him down there. No different than when Esa Lindell went down [last week]. We're going to try to get him some real good ice time and get some confidence back in him and get his head where it needs to be. He's pretty frustrated, and the best way is to go play."

Johns skated with the Texas Stars Friday morning as they prepared to play at San Antonio.

"It's been a little shaky, up and down. My game hasn't been where I want it to be," Johns told the Texas Stars official web site. "I think that is the whole purpose of this little stint here; to get my confidence back and get back to having fun and just get back to the way I play."

Injury Notes

Stars forward Jiri Hudler, who has missed the past 12 games due to illness, skated with the team in an optional practice on Thursday morning but did not take part in Friday morning's skate. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Hudler still has a long way to go.

"He said he felt awful [after Thursday's skate], which I think is understandable for missing that amount of time," Ruff said. "That is something he has got to work through, and I think it is something that is going to take time."

Defenseman Johnny Oduya will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury. There was nothing new on him Saturday.

"No update right now," Ruff said.

As for the injury situation overall, Ruff said it is time to move past that.

"All our excuses as a team are gone," Ruff said. "We're probably as healthy as we are going to get. Most teams have one or two injuries. We still have a couple. So we feel that right now it is time to get going. We can't use [injuries] as the same excuse we had two weeks ago when we had four or five guys out."

Canucks Watch

Ryan Miller will get the start in goal tonight for the Canucks. Miller is 3-7-0 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Forward Sven Baertschi is not expected to play tonight due to a foot injury. The Canucks, who are coming off a 4-1 win at Arizona on Wednesday, are 3-1-1 in their past five games.

Tonight's Game

Who: Vancouver Canucks 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 Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Patrick Sharp - Cody Eakin - Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Brett Ritchie
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Adam Cracknell

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Julius Honka
Jamie Oleksiak - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Curtis McKenzie
Injured: Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jiri Hudler (illness), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)

Canucks Projected Lineup

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Brandon Sutter
Jayson Megna - Bo Horvat - Alexandre Burrows
Markus Granlund - Michael Chaput - Louis Eriksson
Jack Skille - Brendan Gaunce - Joseph LaBate

Alexander Edler - Troy Stecher
Ben Hutton - Erik Gudbranson
Luca Sbisa - Nikita Tryamkin

Ryan Miller
Jacob Markstrom

Scratched: Alex Biega, Alexandre Grenier

Injured: Sven Baertschi (foot), Derek Dorsett (shoulder), Jannik Hansen (rib), Anton Rodin (knee), Christopher Tanev (lower body), Philip Larsen (undisclosed)

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 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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