The Blues beat the Stars three of four times last year, outscoring them by a margin of 14-4 in the those victories. Last time Dallas saw St. Louis was in April, the night the Stars were eliminated from playoff contention. While that game was a victory that closed out the home schedule, (and we mercifully got to make the final walk down the stairs following an overtime victory) the Blues, and what they represented, were a major sore spot for the Dallas Stars last year.
Like their division mates, the Chicago Blackhawks, I felt the Blues represented the kind of team the Stars just couldn't keep up with last season: Young and fast. (See the L.A. Kings for reference.) Of particular insult and injury was the February meeting between the two clubs that saw Dallas fire 41 shots, and hit the post an eye-popping five times, only to come away empty handed.
Dallas, having already beaten Chicago this year on the road, will look to continue their strong play away from the American Airlines Center, and take down another team that had their number last season.
After the jump, a look at the two teams and an injury update...
The Blues: St. Louis figures to be a tough nut to crack this early in the season. After walloping the Stars in their final preseason game, they traveled to Sweden and beat the Red Wings twice to open the season right where they left off last year: Impressively.
Since returning from Sweden they're 2-3-1, having just earned their first victory in St. Louis last night against the hapless Minnesota Wild. In consecutive games they dominated the Ducks in Anaheim, winning 5-0, and then subsequently got clobbered by the Penguins 5-1 in Pittsburgh. Granted, Anaheim to Pittsburgh is a hell of a turnaround, but they seem almost as bipolar as the Dallas Stars.
Ty Conklin may get the start in net tonight owing to the back-to-back situation (the rare home-home back to back).
The Stars: Enter tonight's game needing a bit of a break. This is their seventh game in eleven days. They'll have to get used to scheduling like this if they're to survive their busy spring. (16 games in March, for instance)
Brad Richards, after missing two games, returned to the lineup on Thursday to face the Kings. Though he didn't quite look like himself, he still managed two assists in the comeback loss. Said Marc Crawford after the game:
"I thought Richie was pretty good," Crawford said. "I'm sure somewhere between the first and second period, he was probably wondering about his decision to come back, but he gutted it out, and I think our team gutted it out. That's what we needed, we needed everybody contributing." [DMN]
Richards later remarked that he felt fine after the game, but I still wouldn't be surprised to hear that he's questionable for tonight. Stay tuned for that.
The Blues currently hold statistical edges over the Stars in PP% and PK%. Remarkably, the Stars hold the edge in faceoffs 49%-47.8%
Marty Turco will be in goal for Dallas. The Stars have won only one of their last six trips to St. Louis. Yuck.
Matt Niskanen missed the game in Los Angeles after a dirty-duck did their worst in Anaheim on Wednesday. The Stars did send Francis Wathier back to Austin yesterday, so we can surmise that a Star will return to the lineup tonight (most likely Niskanen?), or another call up is pending. Again, stay tuned to Defending Big D for any lineup news throughout the day.
Steve Ott and Brad Richards each returned to the lineup on Thursday, and we have not yet heard any reason to believe they won't continue playing.