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Shaking things up

Ruff expected to juggle forward lines as Stars open four-game road trip in St. Louis

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Coach Lindy Ruff said he is going to shake up his forward lines as the Stars open a four-game road trip in St. Louis tonight. Ruff said he'll go with lines similar to what the Stars used on their last lengthy road trip when they picked up six of a possible ten points (2-1-2).

"We're shaking the whole thing up. We're going to go with the lines we were successful with on our last road trip," Ruff said. "We are going with a four-line approach, divvy up the ice time. We've got back-to-back games, four [games] in six [nights]. We've got a tough haul, and we're finishing off a tough haul. The idea is to try to not overplay and keep the energy of this team up."

The Stars didn't run lines this morning, so it's not clear what Ruff will roll out tonight. But on that last road trip, Ruff had Radek Faksa centering Jamie Benn and Lauri Korpikoski and Tyler Seguin at center with Antoine Roussel and Patrick Eaves on his wings. He'll have more options this time around with Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, and Cody Eakin all back from the injured list.

On defense, Patrik Nemeth will draw back in tonight for Dan Hamhuis, who is expected to sit out as a healthy scratch along with Stephen Johns, who is back after playing two games in the AHL over the weekend. With a busy week ahead, Ruff said he expects to use all his defensemen.

"There are a couple things in play. We really feel we are going to keep using eight defensemen," Ruff said. "With Johns, if I play him tonight and I play him tomorrow [in Detroit], that's four games in five nights and his energy level won't be there. You pick which game you want to get him in. Nemeth is a big, strong defenseman that we want to get back in the lineup. It's an opportunity for him to step in and try to get something done for us."

Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal tonight. It will be the second straight start for Niemi, who was sharp in stopping 30 shots in Friday's 2-1 win over Vancouver on Friday. Niemi has been excellent at home this season with a 5-1-1 record, 1.98 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. It's been a different story on the road, where he is 0-1-1 with a 5.55 GAA and .846 SV% in three starts. Ruff said that road record is not all on Niemi.

"I think it is a team responsibility. It's not just the goalie's responsibility," Ruff said. "We need better support from the front to the back helping out the goaltenders and not making those mistakes that we've made."

The Stars (9-8-5) are attempting to win consecutive games for just the second time this season. The Stars are 1-5-2 following wins this season.

Video: Ruff anticipates hard battle against the Blues

Blues Watch

The Blues (12-7-3) come into tonight's game on a roll at home. They've won four straight at Scottrade Center and have points in nine straight (7-0-2). They are expected to go with the same lineup used in Saturday's 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota in St. Louis, which would include Jake Allen in goal. Forward Alex Steen and defensemen Joel Edmundson took part in this morning's optional skate, but both remain out with upper-body injuries.

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues
Where: Scottrade Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Lauri Korpikoski
Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Patrick Sharp - Cody Eakin - Jason Spezza
Devin Shore - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak - Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth - Julius Honka

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Dan Hamhuis, Stephen Johns, Curtis McKenzie
Injured: Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jiri Hudler (illness), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)

Blues Projected Lineup

Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - David Perron
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin - Patrik Berglund - Ty Rattie
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Robert Bortuzzo - Colton Parayko

Jake Allen
Carter Hutton

Scratched: Nail Yakupov
Injured: Alexander Steen (upper body), Joel Edmundson (upper 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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