Dallas Stars Morning Skate: Antti Niemi Will Lead Stars Against Pittsburgh Penguins

The Stars new goaltender will be their opening night starter in what promises to be an all offense, all the time season opener at the American Airlines Center.

The day is finally here, with the Dallas Stars ready to take the ice for their first meaningful game since they came together to win Jamie Benn the Art Ross Trophy last April. There are shiny new wingers, defensemen and rookies to watch, officials to complain about and Jumbotron bits to laugh at.

And the team will begin the season behind a new starting goalie - Antti Niemi.

According to Owen Newkirk, Mike Heika and the rest of the media out at the American Airlines Center for morning skate, Niemi was the first man off the ice this morning. Signed to a three-year contract in the offseason to solve the Stars goaltending woes, Niemi was a little up and down in the preseason and training camp, but he definitely had the stronger performances between him and incumbent starter Kari Lehtonen, particularly in the preseason finale against the Chicago Blackhawks.

That preseason performance earned him the right to face the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at the AAC behind a slightly jumbled Stars lineup, which has the usual suspects in slightly altered places. Anticipating a formidable challenge from the scariest offense on paper in the Eastern Conference, and perhaps making some adjustments to help support players recovering from offseason surgery as they continue to get up to speed, Lindy Ruff has made a few matchup adjustments in the forward lines.

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Tyler Seguin

Valeri Nichushkin - Jason Spezza - Patrick Sharp

Travis Moen - Vernon Fiddler - Patrick Eaves

Antoine Roussel - Mattias Janmark - Ales Hemsky

There are bound to be a lot of eyebrows raised, especially at that first line, but from a matchup perspective it does make sense. Eakin is a puck-hound extraordinaire, and he played well in a more defensive-minded role with Benn and Seguin last season. If Ruff anticipates a power-on-power match against a line featuring Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, Eakin is an asset (and a line of players who all have experience as a center may help when things inevitably get chaotic in the defensive zone).

The defensive pairings look more like what was shown in the preseason, with John Klingberg playing with Alex Goligoski, Johnny Oduya playing with Jason Demers and Jordie Benn playing with Jyrki Jokipakka. As anticipated, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak seem to have fallen just a touch behind in the race for playing time, and both skated late alongside Colton Sceviour as probable healthy scratches.

The Penguins had an optional pre-game skate in which at least Crosby, Phil Kessel and Chris Kunitz all opted out of, so it's hard to get a sense of their lineup. However they roll it out, it's sure to be frightening.

The puck drops around 7:30 p.m., and the Stars are planning to make a full evening of it for fans:

It's opening night, y'all. Hope springs ever eternal.

Here are the videos from this morning: