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Dallas Stars Daily Links: Stars-Blues Weekend Shows What the 2016 Playoffs May Look Like, Says Heika

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The path to the postseason leads through St. Louis. Plus, highlights and lowlights from the World Junior Championships, and more holiday lists, pics and posts than you can shake a peppermint stick at.

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The Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues play divergent styles that make for an interesting contrast, says Mike Heika. And last night's game, in which the Stars went down swinging 3-2 in a nine-round shootout, may serve as a precursor for a potential meeting in this season's playoffs.

The fact that these teams get under each other's skins early and often just spices things up, says head coach Lindy Ruff:

"I like it," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I think it creates a competitive edge, almost a playoff atmosphere. There will be some blood that spills over from tonight to tomorrow. That's good for the game."

As Stars fans, we're always telling ourselves how iron sharpens iron and it's a real team's life in the Central Division and blah bliddy blah murderface, and sometimes it's just to make ourselves feel better about how tough our divisional games always are. So it's encouraging to see someone like Jason Spezza express the same thoughts, because Jason Spezza may be an actual magical unicorn made of rainbows:

"We've always respected them as one of the better teams, but we have better to give than we have given in the two games against them," Spezza said of the fact Dallas lost 3-0 in St. Louis two weeks ago. "I think it's good for us. It's a good challenge. Teams are going to gun for us, teams are going to give you their best, and I think that makes you a better team."

Heika has more at his blog. [SportsDayDFW]

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Elsewhere in Heika, and appropriately timed for the holidays, is a wonderful piece on how the Stars express themselves through their charitable concerns, featuring Tyler Seguin, Vernon Fiddler, Alex Goligoski, Kari Lehtonen and many more. [SportsDayDFW]

The Stars may have lost in the shootout, but they still sparkle atop TSN's NHL Power Rankings tree. "The Stars aren't easy to catch ... because they don't merely win, they blow teams out." [TSN]

Last night, in trouble:

Dallas D-man Johnny Oduya reached a big milestone last night. Here's hoping he starts his next 700 games with a win this afternoon, as the Stars face the Blues in American Airlines Center at 5 p.m. Central.

The World Junior Championships began yesterday, and you can read Derek's DBD recap here. Mark Stepneski has more about Roope Hintz and his performance for Team Finland, and the Denis Gurianov game misconduct that got him cut from Team Russia. [Stars Inside Edge]

The news in unabashed homerism is that Team USA held off Team Canada, 4-2. Bob McKenzie and James Duthie lead a nation through the five stages of grief.

If you're wondering how big a deal the WJCs really are, here's a little perspective from The Sporting News' Jesse Spector:

This year's Finnish WJC team is packed with potential blue-chip talent. Panu Markkanen takes a closer look at two draft-eligible ultraprospects.

And now that his fractured left foot has healed, the Boston Bruins have given forward David Pastrnak permission to play for the Czech Republic. [NESN]

Meanwhile, everyone is talking about the ugly hit on Team Sweden forward William Nylander that took the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect out of play. [SB Nation]

Back in the NHL, Jack Eichel scored twice and earned four points for the Buffalo Sabres in his homecoming game against the Boston Bruins. [Boston Globe]

Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele suffered a head injury after colliding with left wing Andrew Ladd during practice. No word yet on whether he'll play tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. [Winnipeg Sun]

Brad Marchand is tired of being called a pest. It might be a little late to put that genie back in the bottle, but a guy's got to try.

ICYMI, the Anaheim Ducks (12-15-6) are still a dumpster fire. Nick Forrester talked to head coach Bruce Boudreau, who seems almost as lost as his team. [Sports Illustrated]

What did Santa Claus bring for some of the league's biggest stars? Mike Brophy speculates on what showed up in the stockings of Drew Doughty, Ryan Getzlaf, Alex Ovechkin and more. [The Hockey News]

Dan Rosen has chosen NHL.com's 15 top moments of 2015. Jamie Benn. Art Ross Night. Boom.

Also from NHL.com: 2015's biggest personalities, from Jon Cooper to Johnny Gaudreau.

The Montreal Canadiens may have gotten spanked by the Washington Capitals last night, but they did get some good news this weekend: Injured winger Brendan Gallagher has returned to practice and could be back in the line-up before their current road trip is through. [Sportsnet]

As for what you missed over the holiday, Stars sideline reporter Julie Dobbs – who's married to team video coach Kelly Forbes – shared a heartwarming Twitpic from their new son's first Christmas.

Finally: BarDown has a very merry collection of holiday posts from the NHL's best, including everyone from Max Domi to Roberto Luongo to the mighty Benn brothers and their family. Enjoy

Merry Christmas from The Benn Family! ☃

A photo posted by Jamie Benn (@jamiebenn14) on