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No lineup changes expected as Stars take on Jets

Antti Niemi in goal again as Stars look to sweep home-and-home series

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars are expected to roll out the same lineup they used Tuesday when they take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight at MTS Centre in the second game of a home-and-home series between the two teams.

Antti Niemi is expected to get the start in goal again for the Stars. Niemi made 28 saves, including several key ones, in Tuesday's 3-2 Dallas win at American Airlines Center.

The Stars held an optional skate this morning, so there were no line rushes. But Stars coach Lindy Ruff used basically the same lines in Wednesday's practice as he did in Tuesday's game, so chances are there will be no changes there.

On defense, Stephen Johns and Jamie Oleksiak are the expected scratches, so the defense will be the same as Tuesday.

The Stars will look for the same result against the Jets, but Ruff would still like his team to clean up a few things. The Stars gave up several quality chances in Tuesday's game.

"We're going to try to play a similar game, but we've got to cover up on a few assignments," Ruff said. "At the end of a power play we gave up a pretty big situation and we missed a couple of assignments leaving our zone that led to a couple pretty good opportunities. If we can clean up that, it will make it a little tighter game for us."

Video: Stars look to continue aggressive play

Forward Jason Spezza, who missed Tuesday's game with a lower-body injury, took part in Thursday morning's optional skate but it doesn't look like he will play tonight.

"I think he is a guy that is probably ruled out," Ruff said. "This was his first test. I didn't see anything that said he would be able to make it through a game."

Jiri Hudler, who has missed the past four games due to illness, also skated this morning. Ruff said Wednesday that Hudler will need a couple more practices before he is ready. Saturday in Minnesota is a possibility.

Jets Watch

Connor Hellebuyck was the first goaltender off the ice for the Jets this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight. He is 1-2-0 with a 3.41 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. Drew Stafford is out with an upper-body injury, so rookie Kyle Connor will draw back into the lineup. Tonight kicks off a stretch that will see the Jets play 19 games in 33 days including four back-to-back sets.

"There is some newness to it," head coach Paul Maurice said when asked how the team would manage the grueling stretch. "I'll give you a better answer when we are halfway through it."

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Winnipeg Jets
Where: MTS Centre, Winnipeg
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

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

Patrik Nemeth - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Esa Lindell
Johnny Oduya - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Stephen Johns, Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Jason Spezza (lower body), Ales Hemsky (groin), Jiri Hudler (illness), Patrick Sharp (concussion-like symptoms), Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee)

Jets Projected Lineup

Patrik Laine - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers - Mathieu Perreault - Kyle Connor
Shawn Matthias - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia
Brandon Tanev - Alexander Burmistrov - Chris Thorburn
 
Josh Morrissey - Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers
Mark Stuart - Ben Chiarot
 
Connor Hellebuyck
Michael Hutchinson

Scratches: Paul Postma
Injuries: Drew Stafford (upper body), Bryan Little (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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