So now, Dallas Stars fans, you get down to the heart of the matter..
The Stars have dominated the Eastern Conference, made a meal of the Pacific, and have won a couple of the very few Central division games they've played.
That changes tonight as Dallas gets to go to St. Louis on the second night of a back-to-back. This ahead of playing them on the first night of a back-to-back later this month. Then again on the second night of the back-to-back.
Then they play them on the second night of a back-to-back in February. And then on the second night of a back-to-back in March.
That's right, the team chasing Dallas in the Central gets them as part of a back-to-back set all five times. Tonight the Stars must begin fending off that bit of scheduling disadvantage lest Ken Hitchock's group gets a taste of catching Lindy Ruff's.
It's the biggest game of the season so far by a long shot. There are three of them this month.
Unlike Dallas, the Blues have been contenders for a while and understand their efforts here tonight can make a difference down the road-
"We [...] want to try to put some doubt in their mind in case we do have to play them in the playoffs," Troy Brouwer told media Friday. "And if we want to get out of our division I assume we're going to have to meet them at some point. If we make it uncomfortable for them to come into our building and play a game and we have confidence knowing we can beat this team in our building it goes a long way towards your mental state if you do have to play them in the playoffs."
Ken Hitchcock was full of complimentary things to say about Dallas and what they've learned from last season, adding "It's obvious by the way they've played. They learned their lesson last year. That was a tough season for them to give up the leads that they did in the third period and to lose games in the third period. They learned their lesson."
St. Louis has been a good territorial team of late but have not been able to finish at times, scoring just nine totals goals in their last five outings, including losses to the Leafs, Islanders, Panthers and Flyers.
They've been in an odd pattern of their schedule where they've faced 10 Eastern Conference opponents in 11 games. Prior to that they had great success against the West and own the conference's greatest number of wins at 11. (11-3-0 against West vs 9-1-2 for Dallas)
The Blues have a 4-5-1 record at home since starting 4-0-1 there in October. They've only reached four goals at home once this season- A 4-1 over the slumping Coyotes earlier this week.
Job number one for Dallas is obvious, as he's hurt them very, very dearly over the last two seasons. You know who I am talking about, and teams rarely can figure out a way to neutralize him for the full 60.
From Stars PR:
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
The Dallas Stars meet the St. Louis Blues for the first of five matchups during the 2015-16 season. Dallas plays their Central Division rival three times during the month of December, with two of those games taking place at Scottrade Center. Last season against the Blues, the Stars recorded a 2-2-1 overall record and won both of their games in St. Louis. Dallas enters Saturday's contest riding a four-game winning streak at Scottrade Center. All five matchups against the Blues in 2015-16 are scheduled as part of a back-to-back for the Stars, with four tilts coming on the second night. The Stars have earned points (2-0-1) in each of their three games on the second night of a back-to-back this season.
BENN THERE, DONE THAT
Stars captain Jamie Benn tallied a season-best four points (1-3=4) on Tuesday night against Carolina. Benn leads the NHL with 19 goals this season and is tied for second with 39 points (19-20=39). Benn led the Stars with five goals and seven points (5-2=7) against the Blues last season, including posting his first career hat trick (3-0=3) on Feb. 17 to help lead the Stars to a 4-1 victory in St. Louis. Benn has points in two of his last three games against the Blues (5-1=6), including two multi-goal outings, and has tallied 18 points (9-9=18) in 22 career games against them. The captain has tallied at least one point in 21 of the first 28 games this season and has now recorded a point in 33 of his last 43 games (31-33=64) dating back to last season.
SPEZZ-CIAL ON THE ROAD
Stars forward Jason Spezza has tallied goals in three of his last six games (3-0=3) and has 19 points (11-8=19) this season, ranking third on the club with 11 goals. The native of Toronto, Ont. has recorded 10 points (6-4=10) in 15 road games this season, along with a +7 plus/minus rating. In his most recent game at Scottrade Center on Feb. 17, Spezza tied a season-best with three assists (0-3=3) in the contest. During the 2014-15 campaign against St. Louis, he skated in five games and recorded four points (0-4=4). Spezza has tallied nine points (2-7=9) in 13 career games against the Blues.