The 2-1-1 Dallas Stars are looking to bounce back tonight after affording the Blackhawks over 40 shots on goal and three power-play goal against, en-route to their overtime victory at the American Airlines Center. The 3-1 St. Louis Blues, however, stand firmly in their way tonight with a solid defensive game and a roster dripping with talent.
"I see eight forwards there that could probably play on anyone's top line," Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said when asked what he sees in the Blues. "I see two goalies that are solid and a real heavy defense. They all the makings of a real good team and obviously you saw that last year with how many points they put on the board."
"They play a very good defensive game," continued Gulutzan. "I think they only gave Nashville 13 shots and only 4 scoring chances. That just tells you how solid their lineup is from top to bottom."
Not only did the Blues surrender just 13 shots to the Predators when last they played, but they held the Nashville's total shot attempts (blocked shots, misses, shots) to just 34. Compare that to the 77 shot attempts the Blackhawks directed toward Kari Lehtonen Thursday night.
As of Friday morning the Stars were allowing the league's most shots at 38.2 per game, while the Blues allow the fewest at 19.5.
St. Louis took three of four from the Stars last season. Dallas has won only a single game against the Blues in four of the last six season. The puck drops tonight just after 7:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest.
Dallas has enjoyed continuity in the lineup through four games but that could change, and not just because Jamie Benn is coming back (though likely Monday).
Jaromir Jagr experienced some tightness in his lower back at the conclusion of Tuesday's game against the Blackhawks and Glen Gulutzan told media Friday that he was "60-40" leaning toward not playing this evening. He'll be considered day-to-day going forward.
Ray Whitney and Derek Roy took "maintenance days" off the ice Friday but are expected to be ready tonight. If Jagr is unable to play it's likely that Tomas Vincour, recently re-called from Cedar Park, could take his place along side Derek Roy and Loui Eriksson.
Aaron Rome will reportedly play his first game tonight, though who comes out in his stead has not yet been announced. Rookies Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillon appear to be the leading candidates. Check back here after morning skate for more info.
The lineup could look something like this...
Larsen-(Benn or Dillon)
With two of their "top-six" players absent, and the Blues being who they are, scoring chances could be few and far between.
The other big news out of Friday's session was that Cristopher Nilstorp will get his second start in the Dallas net tonight, and his first ever at American Airlines Center.
21 year-old rookie right wing Vladimir Tarasenko has wowed the league in his first four games, accumulating four goals and six points overall. Winger T.J. Oshie is right behind with three goals and five points on the young season already.
This is St. Louis' first foray outside of the Central Division, having already beaten Nashville twice and Detroit once while losing a close one to the Blackhawks.
The Blues present a challenge to the Stars, not just in how well they defend, but their power play which has scored in 7 of its 13 opportunities. Dallas allowed Chicago seven chances Thursday night and is seeing opponents convert at a rate of 26% - Can they limit the damage by a Blues power play that's converting at better than 53% so far?
Their expected lineup, or some facsimile of it...
The Blues signed and activated 35 year-old Wade Redden before their last game against Nashville. The veteran, who had not played in the NHL in nearly three years, played 17:23 Thursday recording no shots and one minor penalty.
Jaroslav Halak should get the start in net. He leads the league with two shutouts already.