Stars Looking for Answers in Rematch Against Blues

Illness and uninspired play have turned December into a somber month. Is there hope for a rebound in St. Louis?

Road splits haven’t been kind to the Dallas Stars. The teams best (read - highest paid) players haven’t delivered away from the sweet confines of the American Airlines Center.

Look no further than Jamie Benn to see the problem. At home, the Captain sports a spiffy 59% xGF%, coming in just ahead of Roope Hintz among Stars regulars. On the road, that number is under 40%, last on the team. Yes - that includes Radek Faksa, Tanner Kero and anyone else on the roster who you may want to kick while their down.

Now, splits are interesting things, and Benn’s road numbers include a significant dose of the now imploded Supernova line. Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov have been about as good together as Grumpier Old Men. Riding that line as hard and for as long as Rick Bowness did to start the season will skew those numbers for the rest of the season.

But the point is - if your Captain, the guy who isn’t all that vocal but leads by example - is coughing up a hairball outside the state of Texas, who does this team turn to when faced with a hostile environment.

Maybe Jamie Benn? This is St. Louis. Jamie Benn loves St. Louis. A few years ago, Dallas decided to supersize the lineup so that they could match the physical intensity of the Blues. That was a team built for Benn. As witnessed on Tuesday night, St. Louis still brings that game, but there aren’t many holdovers from that era still playing with Dallas. The Captain needs to find a way to beat the Blues without playing the Blues heavy game.

There is good news and bad news going into the matchup. On the positive side, Roope Hintz and Alexander Radulov look to be drawing back in (I suppose leading to a downside of Riley Damiani and Ty Dellandrea being sent back to Cedar Park). The more pressing downside is that Miro Heiskanen appears to have succumbed to the non-Covid illness still decimating the room. Joel Kiviranta is also still out with an upper body injury - neither player made the trip to Missouri.

Given the number of contributors out of the Blues lineup, that really isn’t much of an excuse. But this is a manic depressive Dallas Stars team, and the last thing the group needs is to be missing its actual best player. Maybe the Captain can shake off his road blues and find a way to lead this team back into the win column.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Jacob Peterson (40) - Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91)
Michael Raffl (18) - Radek Faksa (12) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Riley Tufte (27) - Luke Glendening (11) - Denis Gurianov (34)

Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Ryan Suter (20) - Jani Hakanpaa (2)
Thomas Harley (55) - Andrej Sekera (5)

Braden Holtby (70)

St. Louis Blues Lineup

Brandon Saad (20) - Ryan O’Reilly (90) - Logan Brown (22)
Pavel Buchnevich (89) - Ivan Barbashev (49) - Vladimir Tarasenko (91)
Nathan Walker (26) - Tyler Bozak (21) - Oskar Sundqvist (70)
Alexei Toropchenko (65) - Dakota Joshua (54) - Matthew Peca (53)

Niko Mikkola (77) - Colton Parayko (55)
Torey Krug (47) - Justin Faulk (72)
Marco Scandella (6) - Robert Bortuzzo (41)

Charlie Lindgren (39)

Keys to the Game

Jamie Benn. Benn can set the tone for the Stars, but Dallas can try to outphysical the Blues. The Stars need to play hockey, and let St. Louis’s physicality take them out of just taking care of business.

Special Teams. If Dallas can turn the game into a PK/PP battle, they have a chance.

John Klingberg. With Heiskanen out, Klingberg needs to return to first pair form. Especially, he needs to drive play through the neutral zone and within the offensive zone. His road numbers on the season are about as bad as Benn’s - time to show some secondary leadership.