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Stars look to get back on track vs. Jets

Niemi in goal; Eaves probable, Spezza questionable

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars (2-2-1) will try to get back on track when they take on the Winnipeg Jets at American Airlines Center tonight. The Stars, who are missing several forwards due to injury, are coming off a lackluster 3-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday.

"We have to find reasons for winning a game and how to be effective. Put all the excuses aside. I think there are ways you can still win," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Although we have a lot of personnel up front that may be out tonight, you've got to find reasons to win. Last game, we did some things that encouraged energy from the other team. We are going to try to turn the table and play a smarter, more effective game."

Ruff said trust will be key as the Stars try to get their game in order.

"Yesterday's meeting was about trust. That's what we need to do," Ruff said. "It's trusting that on the ice you have an assignment in that 35-40 second shift. If you do your job, it is easier for the second guy to do his. We've been a real effective team when guys take care of their own job inside that 40 second shift."

On the injury front, right wing Patrick Eaves (lower body) took part in this morning's skate and is probable for tonight's game. Center Jason Spezza, who left Monday's practice with an undisclosed issue, did not skate this morning. His status is still up in the air.

"Spezz is still a decision we need to make," Ruff said.

Ales Hemsky reinjured his groin Saturday and was placed on injured reserve, joining forwards Jiri Hudler (illness), Patrick Sharp (concussion-like symptoms), Cody Eakin (knee) and Mattias Janmark (knee) on IR.

 The Stars called up Justin Dowling from the Texas Stars of the AHL Monday, and it looks like he could make his NHL debut tonight. Dowling had a strong training camp and preseason and ranks second in the AHL in scoring with eight points (two goals, six assists) in five games.

"He's a guy that is really good with the puck. He's smart with it," Ruff said. "We could lose a centerman tonight, so he is a guy that can step in the middle. We've got [Gemel] Smith who can go to the wing and has good speed."

The 26-year-old Dowling was never drafted and worked his way up through the ECHL and AHL to get this call-up to the NHL.

"I just had to bide my time and keep doing what I was doing down there and hopefully I would get an opportunity," Dowling said. "I am happy to be here now and get the opportunity."

On blue line, it appears Ruff could juggle his defense pairs. The pairs at this morning's skate were the same as those in Monday's practice: Patrik Nemeth-John Klingberg; Dan Hamhuis-Esa Lindell; Johnny Oduya-Jordie Benn; Jamie Oleksiak-Stephen Johns. Oleksiak and Johns skated late, so they appear to be the scratches tonight.

"I think our defense really struggled the last game. We had half our D that played well, and half were struggling," Ruff said. "I said earlier that we will get 20 or 30 games in and this will all sort itself out. Until then, it's more of a competition to see who is going to be able to play. If you don't play well, you won't be in."

Antti Niemi will get the start in goal tonight. It will be his first start since Oct. 15.

Jets Watch

Michael Hutchinson is expected to get the start in goal tonight for the Jets, who are coming off a 3-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Sunday's Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.

"It was a little bit different [playing the outdoor game]," Jets forward Patrick Laine said. "It's nice to play inside now and for the rest of the season and just focus on improving."

The Jets are 2-3-0 this season, and both their wins have come in overtime.

Tonight's Game

Who: Winnipeg Jets at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 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 - Brett Ritchie
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Adam Cracknell
Curtis McKenzie - Justin Dowling - Gemel Smith

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

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Stephen Johns, Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Jason Spezza (undisclosed), 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 - Drew Stafford
Shawn Matthias - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia
Chris Thorburn - Alexander Burmistrov - Brandon Tanev
 
Josh Morrissey - Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers
Mark Stuart - Ben Chiarot
 
Michael Hutchinson
Connor Hellebuyck

Scratches: Paul Postma, Kyle Connor
Injuries: 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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