DALLAS - Despite never being able to play a completely healthy lineup this season, the Blues find themselves at game No. 70 with a chance to take over first place in the Central Division.
“With everything we've gone through, we wake up [in the] morning in a hockey game for first place," Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said after Friday’s 5-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks. "Nobody would have thought of that because of everything these guys have been through. That's been a feather in their cap.”
Currently without injured Blues Alexander Steen, Steve Ott and Brian Elliott, the team faced an extremely difficult schedule this week with games against the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and tonight, against the first-place Dallas Stars (8 p.m., FSMW, KMOX).
So far, they’re passing those tests with flying colors: the Blues could go 4-0 this week with a win tonight.
“Pretty impressive that we've been able to maintain a competitive level despite missing key guys all year,” Hitchcock said.
A regulation win tonight at American Airlines Center would put the Blues in sole possession of first in the Central Division, arguably the toughest division in all of pro sports.
“I think there will be extra juice for everybody,” Hitchcock said of tonight’s game in Dallas. “That’s a fun game to play in. Two good teams going at it, two teams that have really had a lot of solid games against each other.”
Jake Allen, who is on a career-high-tying five-game win streak, will start again in goal.
“These (games) are crucial. I think we have one of the hardest schedules to finish the season in the League,” Allen said. “To start the way we have is great but we’ve got a long way to go. Only a handful of games left, it feels like the season is flying by already, but we want to finish on the right foot and head into the playoffs in a winning way, with everyone having confidence again.”
NOT VERY STAR-STRUCK
The Stars may have 41 wins this season, but they haven’t been able to get many against the Blues.
St. Louis has won three of four meetings with Dallas this season, including the most recent one: a 2-1 Blues win on Feb. 16 thanks to defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s overtime game-winner.
“St. Louis might be the best team in the League right now the way they’re playing, and they’re healthier,” Stars Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. “The task is going to be even a little more daunting than putting things together the way we did (against Chicago), changing lines around and coming up with the effort we did.”
The Stars are coming off a 5-2 win against the Blackhawks on Friday night, setting up tonight’s matchup for first place.
The Blues did not have a gameday skate on Saturday, but we’d project the lines to remain the same tonight.
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko
Hitchcock said the entire team would be traveling during the Blues’ five-game road trip, meaning Alexander Steen, Steve Ott and Brian Elliott would be practicing with the club as they work towards a comeback.
One reason for the Blues' success this season is the play of their three rookies: Robby Fabbri, Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko. See their story in this three-minute video feature, which will also air during tonight's episode of Blues Weekly at 11:15 on KMOV.
Jake Allen is 3-1-0 with a 1.42 goals-against average and a .941 save-percentage in five career games against the Stars.
Paul Stastny has 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 35 career games against Dallas.