Consternation has been the name of the game for the Dallas Stars since the team followed up a 3-3 home stand with an 0-3 road trip. The teams strong play at home (7-3-1) had been mitigated by not having won a road game in over a month. Wednesday they got that monkey off their back, beating the Ottawa Senators by a score of 2-1.
Now the Stars find themselves at 3-1-1 over their last five games with a chance to gain some ground on a team directly ahead of them in the St. Louis Blues. A rare back-to-back "home and home" starts tonight in Dallas at 7:30pm CST.
In their first meeting this season the Blues blasted the Stars early, scoring less than a minute into the game and building an early 2-0 lead. Dallas battled back, eventually earning the shootout win 3-2.
If you'd have asked anyone three weeks ago about the St. Louis Blues you would have gotten "one of the best teams in the West this season" but since then things have been uneven. They had a monstrous seven game win-streak but then followed it up with a five game losing streak that saw them surrender 28 goals. Since then they've won three in a row and appear back on track as they roll into this home and home with the Stars.
St. Louis has had difficulties on the road like the Stars have, and both teams ended ugly road streaks on Wednesday. St. Louis had been out-scored 26-10 in four road games before beating the Predators on 2-1 in a shootout this week. (Predators sources say Nashville had the better of the play, naturally).
Kari Lehtonen will be back in net Friday night after being given the night off against the Senators. Andrew Raycroft performed well in his stead, but faced less than 20 shots and did not need to be spectacular. Dallas kept the Sens to the perimeter of the rink and showed a commitment to defending as a five-man unit in front of the backup net-minder.
Injuries and more after the jump....
Dallas defenseman Mark Fistric injured his groin in practice earlier this week after colliding with Toby Petersen. Fistric sat out Wednesdays game against Ottawa and Jeff Woywitka played nearly 15 minutes in his stead, and was a +2 on the night despite some puck handling foibles.
Expect Woywitka to be in again. Dallas had re-called NHL rookie Severin Blindenbacher from the Texas Stars as a precaution this week as it was thought that Karlis Skrastins had some soreness making him questionable against the Senators. It's expected that Blindenbacher will be sent back to Cedar Park this weekend.
Krys Barch has a lower body injury and is thought to be doubtful for Friday night's game, meaning Brian Sutherby will be free to reunite with Brandon Segal and Toby Petersen on an abrasive fourth line.
The St. Louis Blues are in the mold of fast, young teams that give the Stars fits. We've seen it with the Colorado Avalanche this season and we saw it the first time with the Blues, though Dallas managed to fight back in that game. Home ice advantage helps, as the Stars power play clicks at the AAC more so than their 3% road power play, but expect the Blues to come out fresh and win puck battles before they begin. Speed kills. See: Andy McDonald.
The Blues have been one of the better clubs in this early season but have showed weakness on the road. A split is essential if Dallas is to continue hanging around in striking distance of the playoff teams in the tough, tough Western Conference. Win tonight and like your chances in a nasty contest on Saturday.
Jamie Benn was beyond good on Wednesday in Ottawa, despite not appearing on the score sheet. Watch for him to break out offensively on whatever line he plays this weekend.
These teams have displayed little or no love for each other in recent meetings. A home and home will likely cultivate more... "consternation."
See St. Louis Game Time for what are sure to be
offensive colorful Blues opinions.