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Top Teams in Central Division Face Off in Dallas

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With the point streak gone, Dallas can concentrate on knocking off the Blues.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Dallas Stars historic win streak is over, it’s time to get back to the day to day grind of garnering points. Overall, the Stars played a decent game in Chicago before the holiday, losing in shots but winning the expected goal battle. On ice, there was a Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 shutout, but it was the type of game that can be just noted as a decently played game that ended up being a loss.

Digging a bit deeper, it was the third and fourth lines that took the play to the Blackhawks. Good shots, but no finish, which is what you can get from a checking line and an energy line. Dallas benefited from secondary scoring during their winning streak, but depending on it for wins is not a recipe for extended success.

Jim Montgomery spent a good portion of the evening mixing lines, looking for some combination that could get one past Corey Crawford. In the end, the chances didn’t turn into goals, and that usually means a loss.

The question at this point is how do the Stars react to the end of the streak. Visually, the team was good on the forecheck and generated shots that could easily have gone in. Especially considering the busy schedule that preceded the game.

It’s easy to just think that the team should just carry on. The hard part is to do that. For the mental game, seeing a puck go in would go a long way to seeing a loss to Chicago as just being a blip on the radar. Friday night should be for showing a continued surge that is based on quality, relentless hockey. One loss, especially when the play was good, doesn’t change anything.

St. Louis has held together well, since losing Vladimir Tarasenko was lost for five months with an injured left shoulder. Much of their success has come in the more than 40 percent of their games that have gone to overtime. The Blues have more than twice as many games that have gone past 60 minutes than the Stars, and their overtime points have pushed them to the top of the Central Division.

Offensively, the Blues rely on two pairs: Brayden Schenn with Jaden Schwartz and Ryan O’Reilly with David Perron. Most of the scoring goes through these pairs, and they will be a focal point for the Stars’ defense and shut down lines.

Beyond Tarasenko, St. Louis has been dealing with several other injuries, including a wrist injury to Sammy Blais that will keep him out for several months. In addition, Alexander Steen is out for a few weeks with an ankle injury. Oskar Sundqvist went down with a lower body injury after scoring two goals Wednesday night, and has subsequently been put on injured reserve. Nathan Walker will be making his season debut on an already limited Blues fourth line.

Robert Bortuzzo is out serving a four game suspension for several dirty checks on Nashville’s Victor Arvidsson, but that doesn’t do much for the Blues defensive corps. This is a group that is familiar to the Stars, and so there should be no surprises.

In net, the Blues have been riding Jordan Binnington for about three out of every four games. Binnington has been excellent this year, showing no signs of a sophomore slump.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn (14) - Justin Dowling (37) - Tyler Seguin (91)
Alexander Radulov (47) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Denis Gurianov (34) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Corey Perry (10)

Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Roman Polak (45)

Ben Bishop (30)

St. Louis Blues Lineup

Jaden Schwartz (17) - Brayden Schenn (10) - Robert Thomas (18)
Zachary Sanford (12) - Ryan O’Reilly (90) - David Perron (57)
Ivan Barbashev (49) - Tyler Bozak (21) - Troy Brouwer (36)
Mackenzie MacEachern (28) - Jacob De La Rose (61) - Nathan Walker (26)

Carl Gunnarsson (4) - Alex Pietrangelo (27)
Jay Bouwmeester (19) - Colton Parayko (55)
Vince Dunn (29) - Justin Faulk (72)

Jordan Binnington (50)

Keys to the Game

Business as Usual. Stars need to play their own game and not be distracted by the end of the streak.

Control the Blues’ big two pairs. Everything goes through Schwartz/Schenn and O’Reilly/Perron. The Stars can use their depth and last change to create on-ice advantages.

Goaltending - Ben Bishop vs. Jordan Binnington. Either could steal the game.