Two weeks can make a world of difference in the NHL playoffs — especially for those teams in the Central Division.
As the days tick off the regular season calendar, teams in the tightly-compacted division had to assess where they were at the trade deadline and determine if they were going to be buyers, sellers, or stand firm with the guys that got them to that point in the season.
The St. Louis Blues lost to the Dallas Stars on February 26th. The Stars moved into third place in the Central Division, and the Blues moved into the Wild Card after that game. Since that game, the Blues have gone 1-5-0. They traded forward Paul Stastny within the division to the Winnipeg Jets in an unexpected move on trade deadline day. Stastny is slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Blues, finding themselves in the slog for a Wild Card spot, decided to trade him to get some return instead of losing an asset for nothing in the summer.
The Stars, meanwhile, have gone 2-3-1 since that last meeting with the Blues. They sit just two points behind the Minnesota Wild for third place in the division, and have a three point cushion between themselves and the last first team on the outside of the last playoff position. They also own a game in hand on both of those teams.
So today’s matinee game versus the Blues presents an opportunity for both teams.
For the Blues, it’s a chance to pull themselves out of their recent spiral. For the Stars, it’s a chance to keep their focus on taking over third in the division. After all, if you keep going after the carrot you’re not as concerned with the pack of hounds nipping at your heels.
Dallas Stars Lineup
With such an early puck drop today, the Stars will not have a morning skate. Lines from Friday’s practice were as follows:
Jamie Benn — Tyler Seguin — Jason Spezza
Devin Shore — Mattias Janmark — Alexander Radulov
Antoine Roussel — Radek Faksa — Tyler Pitlick
Remi Elie — Jason Dickinson — Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell — John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis — Greg Pateryn
Marc Methot — Stephen Johns
It appears that Gemel Smith and Julius Honka find themselves the healthy scratches once more. These lines are changed slightly from the ones head coach Ken Hitchcock rolled versus the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night. Spezza should get ample opportunity to spark his offense playing next to Benn and Seguin, much like he did last season. Dickinson’s line brought a lot of offensive zone possession to the last game. It’ll be interesting to see if they can bring it again today. That could be a key line heading into the playoffs for Dallas if their chemistry continues.
Ben Bishop should get the start in net today.
St. Louis Blues Lineup
Alexander Steen - Ivan Barbashev - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - Brayden Schenn - Dmitrij Jaskin
Nikita Soshnikov - Vladimir Sobotka - Tage Thompson
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Chris Thorburn
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn - Jordan Schmaltz
Carter Hutton is the likely starter in net for the Blues.