The Dallas Stars' season long penalty troubles reached a crescendo Thursday night, affording the Edmonton Oilers nine power play opportunities, three off which were of the "5-on-3" variety, and head coach Glen Gulutzan continues to make it a priority.
"You can't have blips. It's too short to have blips on the radar," Gulutzan said Sunday of the penalty issue. "You can't win games when you take that many penalties. That's the bottom line. We've got to take fewer penalties and we've got to be more accountable for our actions, and more aware of where we are."
The Blues entered Friday's game against the Edmonton Oilers in desperate search of offense having scored just three total goals in their previous four games, and exploded for a solid 4-2 win, breaking an 0-for-13 streak on their power play.
From Stars PR: "The Stars come into Sunday's meeting with St. Louis seeking their 100th win in franchise history over the Blues. Similarly, Stars forward Jamie Benn currently sits at 98 assists for his career, just two helpers shy of reaching the century mark."
The puck drops on this one at 2:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest locally, and NHL Network elsewhere in the United States.
Jamie Benn's plus/minus rating has taken hits of -3, -3 and -2 in the Stars' last three games, and the coaching staff has taken notice.
"That one line was minus quite a bit here in the last few days and we wanted to see if we could shake things up a little bit," Gulutzan said Sunday. We'll go from there, and if it doesn't work we are prepared to change."
The change appears to be taking the form of Loui Eriksson joining Benn and Jaromir Jagr on the Stars' top grouping, and the resultant dominoes falling as such...
Erik Cole showed some good chemistry with Reilly Smith and Cody Eakin Thursday night, but finds himself already moved into the top-six along side Derek Roy. Antoine Roussel retains his top-six spot, while Brenden Morrow will attempt to keep pace with the young guns on what we've been calling the third line.
Mark Stepneski at Stars Inside Edge says Philip Larsen should skate on Sunday, possibly inching closer to a return, and that his injury is shoulder related. Ray Whitney continues to work out and skate with his teammates. His return could be just two weeks away or possibly even less. Then the forward grouping changes once more.
The Stars need to take advantage of the scheduling quirks afforded them in the 48-game schedule - Quirks like playing some teams twice at home and only once on the road, as with the Blues. If St. Louis takes both games at the AAC then it's another edge over a competitor lost.
St. Louis has been dealing with some key injuries in Alex Steen, Andy McDonald, and Vladamir Tarasenko (concussion), but Ken Hitchcock says they have ample experience in dealing with the absence of key offensive players, and the more work-man like attitude may be to the Stars' detriment.
"This is a heavier team that we're putting out there, but we're familiar with this ground," Hitchcock told the St. Louis Dispatch. "I don't see us missing a beat. We'll just keep playing."
Tarasenko rode an exercise bike and was seen at the rink recently, and McDonald is on the trip with the team, but neither is expected to be back for this one this afternoon.
The Blues are an exceptional road team, regardless of who's in the lineup. They're 6-2-1 away from Scottrade Center and have collected points in each of their previous four attempts. Before getting shutout in Colorado last week the Blues had scoree 28 goals in 8 road games - An impressive rate of 3.5 per contest.
Rookie Jaden Schwartz joined the team's top line with Backes and Oshie Friday night, spurring a team in need of offensive production with a goal and an assist.
"From a 21-year-old kid that's just getting his feet wet in the league," remarked Backes after the game, "it's a lot of character shown, some great leadership too."
Backup Brian Elliott is scheduled to start in net for St. Louis. He's 3-5-1 on the season with a. .849 save percentage and a 3.57 GAA.