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Stars look to get back on track in Columbus

Niemi in goal, Hamhuis back in the lineup vs. Blue Jackets

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars will look to get back on track tonight when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Stars have lost two straight games by a combined score of 8-1. They've lost four of their past five games. One of those four losses was to Columbus, 3-0, in Dallas on Oct. 22.

But right now, the Stars are focused on getting their game back in order and not what happened the last time they played the Blue Jackets. The Stars are struggling to score right now, averaging just 2.25 goals per game. And with several forwards out due to injury, Stars coach Lindy Ruff said the Stars have to be determined to score gritty goals.

"The mentality now is find a different way," Ruff said. "There have been a lot of injuries, a lot of pieces in and out and the dynamics of how we are going to create some offense have changed."

Ruff focused on getting to the front of the net in Monday's practice, and he changed up his power play units in Tuesday morning's skate, putting Antoine Roussel with the top group.

"[Roussel] is a guy that will stand in front of a goaltender and I really feel the past couple games we haven't had enough net-front presence," Ruff said.

Video: Ruff: "It's totally about us"

Antti Niemi is expected to get the start in goal tonight. This will be the fifth start of the season for Niemi, who is 2-1-0 with a 3.86 goals-against average and .893 save percentage.

Dan Hamhuis, who was a healthy scratch Saturday in Minnesota, will draw back in on defense tonight. Ruff said it wasn't easy to scratch a veteran like Hamhuis, a key free agent signing for the Stars this offseason.

"I went and talked to him, and those aren't easy conversations. Understandably, you've got an upset player," Ruff said. "But it's a strong message, and it's a message that needs to be carried - it's not good enough."

Patrik Nemeth will come out of the lineup on defense tonight. He and Jamie Oleksiak will be the healthy scratches on the blue line.

"[Nemeth] is not getting scratched for poor play. He's getting scratched because we are putting Dan back in," Ruff said. "We need Dan to be a big part of where we are going. I think Patrick has played well."

The Stars will roll with the same 12 forwards as last game. Gemel Smith is the extra forward and is expected to sit out as a healthy scratch.

Blue Jackets Watch

Sergei Bobrovsky is the expected starter in goal for Columbus. He has shutouts in two of his past four starts, including a 32-save shutout of the Stars in Dallas on Oct. 22. Defenseman Ryan Murray, who has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup tonight. The Blue Jackets are coming off a four-game road trip where they picked up five of a possible eight points (2-1-1).

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Columbus Blue Jackets
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus
When: 6:00 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 - Adam Cracknell - Jiri Hudler

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

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Gemel Smith
Injured: Patrick Sharp (concussion-like symptoms), Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)

Blue Jackets Projected Lineup

Brandon Saad - Alexander Wennberg - Nick Foligno
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Josh Anderson
Boone Jenner - William Karlsson - Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell - Lukas Sedlak - Sam Gagner

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Ryan Murray - Jack Johnson
Markus Nutivaara - David Savard

Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Dalton Prout, Scott Harrington
Injured: David Clarkson (back) 

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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