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Niemi to get third straight start tonight vs. Chicago

No lineup changes as Stars face Blackhawks in first game of home-and-home

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Antti Niemi will get the start in goal tonight as the Dallas Stars take on the Chicago Blackhawks at the American Airlines Center in the first game of a home-and-home series between the two teams.

This will be the third straight start for Niemi, who is coming off a solid 28-save effort in Thursday's 6-2 win over St. Louis. Niemi is 3-1-1 with a 3.34 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. He is 3-0-0 at home with a 2.00 GAA and .937 save percentage.

"He's just battling hard," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "I don't know if he has given up a tough one. He made some good timely saves for us [Thursday]. The game [in Columbus] the goals that went in were screened and one was a great shot. He is battling hard to make the big save at the right time of the game for us."

The Stars are expected to roll with the same forward lines and defense pairs as Thursday's game. Patrick Eaves, who has been dealing with a bruised foot, didn't skate this morning, but he will play tonight.

"Patty is good to go. Just part of the program with him," Ruff said of Eaves not skating.

Defensemen Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak skated late, so they are tonight's healthy scratches. It will be the third straight scratch for Nemeth and the seventh straight for Oleksiak.

The Stars will look to build off Thursday's win over the Blues as they face another stiff test in the weekend back-to-back with the Blackhawks, who lead the Central Division with a 7-3-1 record.

"It's a huge test for us," said Stars center Radek Faksa. "They are one of the best teams in the league, so it is a huge test. We played very well the last two games, and we have to bring it for this game too. If we play like the last two games, we have a chance to win."

Thursday's win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Stars, who felt they started to trend in the right direction with their play in the previous two games - a 4-0 loss to Minnesota and a 2-1 overtime loss at Columbus. Ruff said the Stars (4-4-2) are looking more like themselves at the ten-game point of the season.

"Based on the past three games, we are playing very similar to the way we did last year," Ruff said. "The chances against are down and the chances for have been pretty good. I like the way the team has been skating, the speed has been really good. I think our defending is where it needs to be."

Video: Ruff on the team's first 10 games

Hudler still out

Jiri Hudler will not play tonight as he continues to battle illness issues. Hudler will miss his second straight game and seventh of the season due to the illness. There was not much of an update Saturday.

"No good news," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Still struggling with whatever type of virus he has."

The Stars have 12 healthy forwards on the roster right now and begin a five-game road trip on Sunday. Ruff was asked Saturday if the team will need to call up an extra forward.

"It's been in the discussion," he said. "If Jiri isn't doing well that will probably be the case."

There was nothing new on forward Patrick Sharp, who will miss his seventh game tonight due to a concussion suffered on Oct. 20 against Los Angeles.

"He's in the [NHL concussion] protocol, progressing and nothing new," Ruff said of Sharp.

Blackhawks Watch

Corey Crawford gets the start in goal tonight for Chicago. Crawford has allowed one goal over the past three games, stopping 103 of 104 shots. For the season, he is 5-3-1 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Chicago comes into tonight's game riding a four-game winning streak during which they've outscored the opposition 15-3.

Tonight's Game

Who: Chicago Blackhawks at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Curtis McKenzie - Gemel Smith - Adam Cracknell

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Jiri Hudler (illness), Patrick Sharp (concussion), Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)

Blackhawks Projected Lineup

Richard Panik - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman - Marcus Kruger - Tyler Motte
Dennis Rasmussen - Nick Schmaltz - Jordin Tootoo

Michal Kempny - Brent Seabrook
Duncan Keith - Brian Campbell
Gustav Forsling - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Corey Crawford
Scott Darling

Scratched: Michal Rozsival, Vinnie Hinostroza
Injured: Trevor van Riemsdyk (upper body), Andrew Desjardins (lower body)

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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