The Dallas Stars continued rolling last night in Nashville, improving to 6-1-0 in the month of February after leaving their January doldrums behind.
They've now won four straight, including victories over the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks, and they've taken five straight road games- Every single one of them against Central Division foes.
The only Central team they've not seen on the road this month? (Thank you, schedule makers, really) ...That would be the St. Louis Blues, against whom they square off with this evening.
With 79 points, three games in hand on Chicago, and a share of first place- This might not look mission critical. How could anyone fault them for losing to the Blues after the gauntlet they've run? They looked a little fatigued last night in game four of "seven in twelve nights," and now they're being asked to deal with the physicality and intransigence of a Ken Hitchcock team?
No one could complain.
But it's the Blues, and with the divisional format in the playoffs the likelihood of meeting St. Louis in the first or second round is real. Very real. If the Hawks continue their tear through the season's second half it could be a race for home ice, and the Stars have it won right now- But only just.
St. Louis is just six points back. Even after 8-2-0 in Dallas' last ten games, the Blues are just six points back at 73 with a 6-2-2 run of their own to keep pace after the Stars slipped in January and let them catch up.
No, it's not fair to ask the Stars to perform yet another miracle tonight. But what about the Central is fair, exactly?
Speaking of rough schedules, this will be the third time of four this season that the Stars must face the Blues on the second night of a back-to-back- The first was a 3-0 spanking by the home team in St. Louis in early December. The Stars managed a shootout loss their second trip to Missouri, then took a 3-0 decision of their own the next night just after Christmas.
In short, home ice has been everything in the season series so far, and the Blues get their third crack at Dallas on home ice again tonight. Dallas can get that much closer to claiming home ice with a victory if they can find their legs a night after a grueling battle in Tennessee.
St. Louis scored just 2.41 goals a game but gives up far less than do the Stars, and rank low in giveaways as they're credited with being quite clean with the puck. They'll play a simple north-south game and they'll limit the Stars in transition. A good start will be key- Waiting out Hitchcock and a defensive mindset if the game gets late with a Blues lead will spell disaster- See them holding the dynamic Lightning to a single goal on Sunday.
Oh and then there's Lehtera and Tarasenko, who have been dynamic against the Stars. Dynamic...
Fabbri has been excellent as well and is getting buzz for the Calder- They've three lines that can score. Why they do not with more regularity is a curiosity- Against which is one the Stars hope to avoid being an outlier.
The matchup tonight can be seen on NBCSN or streaming here with your cable subscription.
From Stars PR:
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
The Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues meet for the fourth of five games during the 2015-16 regular season. The Stars play their final contest of the 2015-16 campaign in St. Louis on Tuesday night and have collected points in five of their last six games at Scottrade Center (4-1-1). In the most recent meeting of the season on Dec. 27 at American Airlines Center, the Stars defeated the Blues, 3-0, on the second night of a home-and-home back-to-back with St. Louis. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped all 22 shots on the evening with a multi-point games from captain Jamie Benn (1-1=2) and forward Patrick Sharp (1-1=2), who recorded the game-winning goal in the contest.
Stars forward Tyler Seguin recorded two goals (2-0=2) against the Capitals on Saturday night and is now riding four-game point streak (3-4=7). Seguin currently ranks third in the NHL with 30 goals and ranks fourth in the League with 62 points (30-32=62). The native of Brampton, Ont. has tallied 33 points (18-15=33) in 29 games on the road this season, ranking first in goals (18) and second in points (33). He has points in two consecutive road games (0-4=4) and eight points (3-5=8) over his last six road contests with 21 shots on goal over that span. Seguin has four points (2-2=4) over his last four games against the Blues and has 10 points (4-6=10) in 14 career games against St. Louis.