Dallas Stars Morning Skate: Jyrki Jokipakka Returns, Antti Niemi Stays In Net Against Calgary

Niemi is on tap to make his fourth consecutive start tonight as the Stars kick off a Western Canada swing at the Saddledome.

As always when the Dallas Stars travel to Canada, at least so far this season, it feels like it's time to break out the Admiral Ackbar meme again. You know the one I mean.

This time, it's the struggling Calgary Flames on the docket. The Flames have actually played alright at the Saddledome so far this season, but their underlying numbers and overall record are pretty brutal. Given the losses the Stars have had this season, that means they should be paying close attention to tonight's game and not looking ahead to Thursday in Vancouver.

As always, Mike Heika was on the scene at morning skate with the news of lines, which were as follows:

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp

Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Patrick Eaves

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Valeri Nichushkin

Colton Sceviour - Vernon Fiddler - Ales Hemsky

What's notable here is a return to the slightly more normal lines after the ruffling early in the Minnesota game led to four unanswered Stars goals and an overtime win. That's not a criticism though - one of the great strengths of this team so far has been its ability to adjust with in-game changes, but that doesn't mean they should let 24 bad minutes dictate wholesale changes to what had been working.

It's also worth noting the Saturday Ruffling came on the tail end of a back-to-back, so the changes could have been driven as much by how fatigue was affecting certain individuals, something that shouldn't be a problem given the two days off before this one.

There is one notable change on the defense if things hold true to the morning skate form, and that's the return of Jyrki Jokipakka on the blueline next to Jordie Benn. The top two pairings, John Klingberg with Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers with Johnny Oduya, remain unchanged, and Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak skated as the presumed scratch pair.

It remains a numbers problem with Nemeth and Oleksiak, at least in terms of getting constant playing time. Carrying eight defensemen, not to mention a general group of six that continues to play well, just doesn't lend itself for them to be able to battle their way into the lineup.

Frankly, the eight defenseman situation has gone on longer than many expected already. It will be very interesting to see if Jim Nill is indeed content to let two young players sit in the press box every night because of how well the group is playing overall or if he eventually makes a move.

Another young player who looks to be getting a night off is backup goalie Jack Campbell, who was called up as a backup last week but has not yet seen the NHL ice. Antti Niemi was once again the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, meaning he's the presumed starter.

This will be Niemi's fourth consecutive start, though it's less by original design and more by necessity as Kari Lehtonen has been shelved with a suspiciously concussion-looking upper-body injury. Lindy Ruff said on Monday that Lehtonen has practiced well the past few days and is on schedule to be cleared by doctor's on Wednesday, a week after suffering the initial injury. That satisfies both the IR requirements (which the Stars need at the moment with the 23-man roster limit) and the general guidelines for getting one's bell rung.

Karri Ramo will reportedly be in net for the Flames, who have been battling a flu bug up there in the cold reaches of Alberta.

Here is Razor with more tidbits about this game, including a note about what Jamie Benn might be able to accomplish with a good night, in moving pictures: