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Dallas Stars mum on Niemi or Lehtonen for Game 3

The Dallas Stars played coy on their goaltending starter for Game 3 of their second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, Antti Niemi left the ice first at morning skate. Generally the goaltender that leaves the ice first at morning skate will start that night.

Then, Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Kari Lehtonen would start.

"We've been going with Lehtonen so we're going to stay with him," Ruff said after morning skate, later adding, "I'm not telling you who's starting, so don't ask." 

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Heika then pointed out that Lehtonen stayed on the ice with the Stars’ likely scratches for Game 3. Generally a goaltender doesn’t overexert himself in morning skate with the scratches if he’s set to play that night.

So far, Lehtonen has been Ruff’s preferred starter this postseason. He’s played (and started) six games and held a 2.45 goal-against average and .906 save percentage. In that stretch he’s gone 4-1. Niemi has started two games and held a 2.73 goal-against average and .892 save percentage. He relieved Lehtonen in Game 2 and allowed one goal on 20 shots on goal. That score was David Backes’ overtime winner. 

In that game, Lehtonen was pulled after allowing three goals on five shots on goal in the first period. The series is currently tied 1-1 and Games 3 and 4 are in St. Louis. 

"There just seems a point sometimes where Kari needs a rest," Ruff said after Game 2. "He plays well after that."

The Stars picked up Niemi during the offseason in order to lessen the burden on Lehtonen during the regular season and help give the team an edge on back-to-back games. Niemi started 43 games and Lehtonen started 39 during the regular season.

Conventional hockey wisdom often says a team chooses one goaltender and uses him throughout the entire playoffs. The Stars, instead, are sticking with the type of game plan that helped them win the Central Division with 109 points.

Sportsnet tried to break down the two goaltenders after Dallas' six-game first-round win over the Minnesota Wild and noted Lehtonen is probably the better overall choice. 

"We stuck with it the whole year, we had a tremendous start in which both guys played well. We had a little bit of a run where they struggled, but the other guy stepped in and did a good job. I feel it couldn't have gone better,” said Ruff before Game 4 of this team’s series against the Wild about his decision to switch from Lehtonen to Niemi in advance of that contest.  “And the reason I feel we finished on top at the end was because both guys played so well. I think if I had probably played one, we might not have gotten to where we wanted to go."

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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