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Back to Business as Stars visit St. Louis

Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been just under two weeks since the St. Louis Blues beat Scott Wedgewood and the Dallas Stars 4-3 in overtime. The game was the first for the Stars, sans Jake Oettinger. Wedgewood took a slap shot off the clavicle, opening up the possibility of both an EBUG entering the game, and Matt Murray turning into the goalie of record for the foreseeable future.

The game was a bit of a scheduled loss, with a rested Blues team taking on a Stars team that traveled after sneaking a win out the night before in Dallas against the Ottawa Senators.

Since that game, the Stars have won three straight, including a miracle in Nashville heading into the Christmas break. The team may not be firing on all cylinders, but they are piling up points on a regular basis.

The Blues, on the other hand, are 4-1-0 since interim head coach Drew Bannister took over the team. They’ve scored at least four goals in four of the five games (a 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning being the exception).

The Blues and the Stars have played twice this season, both games featuring a one goal win for the home team in either overtime or a shootout. It’s a divisional game, some might argue a rivalry game, and there’s no reason to think that Wednesday nights game will be a blowout either way.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Mason Marchment (27) – Matt Duchene (95) – Tyler Seguin (91)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Evgenii Dadonov (63)
Craig Smith (15) – Radek Faksa (12) – Sam Steel (18)

Ryan Suter (20) – Miro Heiskanen (4)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Thomas Harley (55) – Joel Hanley (44)

Scott Wedgewood (41)
Matt Murray (32)

The team is rested, so the standard lineup is in play. Sorry Nils Lundkvist and Ty Dellandrea. To be fair, Lundkvist was terrible the last time out against the Blues, on ice for five high danger chances against (while creating one), with a bottom feeding shot share and expected goal percentage. Dellandrea scored a goal and was net positive.

The Stars don’t have back to back games until mid-January, so Matt Murray may find himself stuck on the bench for the foreseeable future (although, his lone NHL win was against the Chicago Blackhawks, so the upcoming pair of games against the bottom team in the Central may get him into net).

St. Louis Blues Lineup

Pavel Buchnevich (89) – Robert Thomas (18) – Jordan Kyrou (25)
Jake Neighbours (63) – Brayden Schenn (10) – Kasperi Kapanen (42)
Brandon Saad (20) – Kevin Hayes (12) – Alexey Toropchenko (13)
Mackenzie MacEachern (28) – Oskar Sundqvist (70) – Samuel Blais (79)

Nick Leddy (4) – Colton Parayko (55)
Torry Krug (47) – Justin Foulk (72)
Marco Scandella (6) – Scott Perunovich (48)

Joel Hofer (30)
Jordan Binnington (50)

The Blues feature a lineup of players just entering the downside of their aging curve. Especially on defense, their top four all all in their thirties – they’re performers, but you have to think that the window is narrowing. The bottom pairing is exploitable.

Likewise, the top line is solid, with the middle six being dangerous at times. The fourth line doesn’t get much time and doesn’t deserve much.

Binnington has been his normal self, interspersing flashes of brilliance with temper tantrum inducing mediocrity. Hofer is the goalie of the future, and is currently getting a start every third game.

Keys to the Game

Fast Start? Two weeks ago, the fast start turned into a two goal lead, followed by what may have been the worst second period the Stars have hairballed up this year. It’s the return game after a Holiday lay-off – just don’t get run over.

Wedgewood. Scott Wedgewood has been everything that could be expected of an NHL backup, and then some. Don’t think – just play.

Talking Points