The logjam at the bottom of the Western Conference standings will jumble once again tonight after the St. Louis Blues meet the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The questions is: Which way will the Stars go? They remain two points behind 8th place Detroit, and 2 points out of 13th place with St. Louis, Anaheim, and Minnesota nipping at their heals. A loss tonight coupled with unfortunate Friday NHL results could see the Stars in 12th place by the time they take the ice against the Penguins on Saturday afternoon. Win tonight, and they're tied for 8th and pass Calgary for the moment.
These teams have split their first two meetings, each winning in each others barn. The Stars beat St. Louis 4-1 back in October, then lost in a shootout the day before Thanksgiving, 4-3. The goal that sent the November game to overtime, you'll remember, was heroically scored by Brenden Morrow with a deft deflection by his, um, "crotchal region." No word yet on if Morrow plans to employ similar tactics tonight.
St. Louis is a formidable road opponent, going 17-9-4 away from Scottrade Center. They have points in 7 of their last 10 games, and have won 4 in a row entering tonight's match-up. They sit one point back and will be highly motivated to climb over the Stars on their way to a possible playoff birth. Expect their best punch tonight.
With Pittsburgh, Washington, and Buffalo looming on the road, the Stars desperately need this win to bolster their confidence after being dominated completely by the Kings on Tuesday. We don't want to call this a must win with 20 games remaining, but it's feeling that way.
After the jump, a look at the Blue trade deadline, who's starting in goal?, and an injury update...
Coach Marc Crawford told the Dallas Morning News that Kari Lehtonen will likely not be starting Thursday against the Blues: "It's a possibility, but I don't think it's a likelihood for tomorrow," Crawford said. "You're looking to see how he's recovering, how he's fighting through screens, what's his energy, He's close. He'll be fine when he comes back in, whether it's Thursday or Saturday, it's going to be one of those two."
If it's a question of Kari Lehtonen not being ready physically to start tonight, that's one thing. But what do you think about the decision if it's purely a strategic/mental decision made by the coach? Is an afternoon game at Pittsburgh a good place to debut? Do you think that the pressure on Lehtonen would be less without the home crowd? Could it be that the St. Louis game is merely the more important of the two, and Marty Turco gives the Stars a better chance to win?
More importantly, how long do you stick with Turco if the Stars begin to slide in the playoff race? These are decisions I'm glad I don't have to make.
The lines for Tuesday's game had a much different look to them at the end than when it began. The third period combinations seemed to be something like this:
Mark Fistric is expected back in the lineup tonight after missing the first game back from the break because of lingering issues with having his knee scoped.
We go to SB Nation partner "St. Louis Game Time" where a guy with a really kick ass first name writes something that reminds me an awful lot of things being said around Dallas these days:
They didn't acquire any draft picks or highly regarded prospects. They didn't cash in any players set to be unrestricted free agents in the offseason. Basically they stood pat. And I can see where that's a good thing. And I can see where that's a bad thing.
The first implication from a lack of trades is that the Blues didn't want to break apart any piece of the team to hurt their chances for making the playoffs. They stand three points out of eighth, but they are one of five teams within three points of that spot. So with 19 games, it's going to be a hectic dogfight for that last spot. Subtracting any player on the NHL roster would have hurt that effort. So that's a good thing, right?
What that means to me is that the Blues are realistic and understand that they're not one or two players away from a deep playoff run. So they didn't deal any draft picks or highly regarded prospects for rental players. So while the team is pushing for the playoffs, they didn't help themselves reach that goal. So that's bad, right?
We start to see as we look at reactions from various teams....the market just wasn't there yesterday. There are other GM's in the same position, or worse, than Joe Nieuwendyk when it comes to the prospect of watching UFA's walk come July.
The Blues projected payroll this year is only $2 million more than the Stars.
St. Louis: Keith Tkachuk is out (broken finger)