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Stars expect 'track meet' vs. Penguins

Antti Niemi in goal tonight against defending Stanley Cup champions

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The latest stop on the Dallas Stars road trip is Pittsburgh, where they will take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins tonight.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff is expecting a revved up and entertaining game against the fast-paced Penguins.

"They've got a really good pace," Ruff said. "When we are on top of our game, like the pace we played in Detroit, if we can hold that pace it will be just a track meet out there. You should see two teams that can utilize their back end to get up ice and utilize their speed up front to push the other team back. I would expect this to be one of the fastest games of the year for us."

As for the lineup tonight, it appears Ruff will go with the same forward lines as Tuesday's game in Detroit. On defense, it is not clear what he will do, so we'll have to wait until warm-ups.

Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars, so he is expected to get the start in goal. He is 6-1-1 in his career against the Penguins with a 2.07 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. He's allowed two goals or fewer in three of his last four starts.

The Stars come into tonight's game with four straight losses on the road (0-2-2).

Pittsburgh area native Johns to play Penguins for first time

Stars defenseman Stephen Johns, who is from the Pittsburgh area, will play his first game against the Penguins, the team he rooted for as a kid.

"Pretty weird," Johns said. "You grow up a Penguins fan. I got to watch Mario [Lemieux] and the first five or six years of [Sidney Crosby's] career. I idolized all the Penguins growing up, and now I get to play against them. It will be weird but fun for sure."

Johns, who is from the small town of Wampum, is the 19th player from Western Pennsylvania to play in the NHL. He had a close call on the injury front in Tuesday's game, suffering a fractured nose in a collision with Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg. He went through concussion protocol but was cleared to play. That's good news for all the family and friends attending tonight's game. How many is he expecting?

"Anywhere from 200 to 300," Johns said. "My whole family is going to be here, my friends and people from around town. It will be cool."

Penguins Watch

The Penguins did not skate this morning. They played last night, losing to the New York Islanders, 5-3, in Brooklyn. The Penguins trailed 3-0 after two periods, rallied to tie in the third but lost on a late goal by Anders Lee. The Penguins are 2-3-1 in their past six games and 4-5-1 in their past ten.

Former Stars defenseman Trevor Daley will play his first game against Dallas tonight. Daley has eight points (two goals, six assists) in 23 games with the Penguins this season. Daley, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins last season, played 756 games with the Stars, ranking eighth in franchise history.

"He's a tremendous skater. He fit into the way we played, the way Pittsburgh is playing," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I am happy for him. He's a good man and I am glad he won a Cup."

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: PPG Paints Arena
When: 6:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

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

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Jordie Benn - Julius Honka
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Adam Cracknell
Injured: Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jiri Hudler (illness), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)

Penguins Projected Lineup

Conor Sheary - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Scott Wilson

Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin - Trevor Daley
Ian Cole - Justin Schultz

Matt Murray
Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Steve Oleksy, Tom Sestito
Injured: Chris Kunitz (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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