The Dallas Stars will go with Antti Niemi in goal for a second straight game when they take on the Ottawa Senators tonight at American Airlines Center.
Niemi, who is coming off a 22-save shutout of Buffalo on Saturday, will start consecutive games for the first time since he started four straight from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2.
“The process [of choosing a starting goaltender] has actually been fairly easy for us because both guys have played well,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
Niemi is 8-3-0 with a 2.41 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Kari Lehtonen is 9-1-0 with a 2.34 GAA and .923 save percentage. The Stars rank seventh in the league in goals against at 2.38 and their team save percentage of .920 ranks seventh as well.
Jason Demers, who suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday’s game and missed Monday’s practice, took part in Tuesday morning’s pregame skate. He didn’t skate on a defense pair in the first run through of line rushes, so he may not be in the lineup tonight. All the defensemen came off the ice at about the same time this morning, so warm-ups before the game tonight will tell the tale of who is in the lineup.
No changes are expected in the forward lines. The line combinations this morning were the same as those used in Saturday’s win over Buffalo. Travis Moen is expected to be a healthy scratch.
The Stars (17-4-0) come into tonight’s game riding a five-game winning streak. They are 8-1-0 in their past nine games. They’ll take on an Ottawa team that hasn’t allowed a goal in its past two games.
“They’ve got good speed. They’ve got a top line that generates a lot. Recently have played better defensively. Before that they had struggled on the defensive side,” Ruff said. “Hopefully we can create enough pressure to create the number of chances to get inside on. They’re giving up a lot of shots, but sometimes a lot of shots, if they’re not inside, don’t mean a lot anyways.”
Tonight’s game will feature two of the top scoring defensemen in the league. Dallas’ John Klingberg ranks first with 23 points (4 goals, 19 assists) and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson ranks second with 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists). Ruff said the two Swedish blue liners are very similar.
“It’s an easy comparison because the stick handling and the skating skill, their ability to get up ice and their ability to make plays,” Ruff said. “They’re both real special players and when you watch them play, if the jerseys were switched, sometimes you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.”
Craig Anderson will get the start tonight in goal for Ottawa. He has posted two consecutive shutouts, stopping 25 shots in a win over Columbus on Thursday and then 36 against Philadelphia on Saturday. Ottawa (10-5-5) comes into tonight’s game on a five-game points streak (3-0-2). They’ll face a challenge in the high-scoring Stars.
“The real good teams, which is what Dallas is, going to make us play quicker on both sides of the puck. That’s going to be our challenge tonight,” Senators coach Dave Cameron said. “Turnovers are going to be magnified because they can score off them, but they’re real good in transition. Puck management’s going to be huge, and we have to make sure that when Dallas has the puck we’re above them.”
Who: Ottawa Senators 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
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 – Jordie Benn
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Jason Demers (lower body)
Scratched: Travis Moen
Conditioning: Patrik Nemeth
Mike Hoffman – Kyle Turris – Bobby Ryan
Shane Prince – Mika Zibanejad – Mark Stone
Milan Michalek – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Alex Chiasson
Curtis Lazar – Zack Smith – Chris Neil
Marc Methot – Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen – Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki – Chris Wideman
Scratched: Colin Greening, Michael Kostka.
Injured: Andrew Hammond (head), Clarke MacArthur (concussion), Chris Phillips (back), Patrick Wiercioch (upper 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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.