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Tarasenko, Benn Face Off Tonight

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - With two games in less than 24 hours between the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars, hockey fans are being treated to more than just a big divisional clash between two of the Western Conference’s top teams: they’re also getting to watch the League’s top goal scorers go head-to-head.

Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko and Stars forward Jamie Benn currently sit atop the League scoring race with 22 goals each. Both players have played 35 games.

So with back-to-back games less than 24 hours apart - starting tonight at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX) - this weekend should be a lot of fun.

“Neither guy gets the credit they deserve with how many big plays they make at the right time,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said of Tarasenko and Benn. “You know when you look across the way and you’re coaching against Jamie, when the game is on the line, he’s going to play well. And they probably feel the same about Vlad. That’s the fun part.”

Tarasenko is currently on a seven-game point streak (six goals, five assists), which is tied for the longest active streak in the League with Washington’s John Carlson. Against Dallas, he’s scored six goals in 10 career games.

Benn, meanwhile, has scored two goals in his last three games.

“Some pretty good firepower up front, some offensive guys capable of changing the game,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of tonight’s game. “I’ve never seen anyone score with as much ease as (Tarasenko). He gets an opportunity to score and it’s in the back of the net.”

“It’s going to be fun to watch,” Fabbri said of Tarasenko / Benn. “Both are having great years, both are playing great for their teams. Hopefully Vladi takes it the next two games.”

ALLEN STARTS

The Dallas Stars average 3.51 goals per game - the best mark by any club since the 2009-10 season - but they were unable to solve Jake Allen in the last meeting. Allen had a 26-save shutout effort at Scottrade Center and is the only goaltender to blank the Stars this season.

In fact, dating back to last season, Allen has two consecutive shutouts against Dallas and hasn’t given up a goal to the Stars in 156 minutes, 21 seconds - a streak that includes 66 consecutive saves and 16 shots from Benn.

“It’s not an easy schedule to come back to but it’s one that gets us right into the game right away,” Allen said of facing the West’s top team after a three-day holiday break. “No excuses, just get out there, grind and get back to our game.”

CARON STAYS IN

With Kyle Brodziak day-to-day with a skate cut, forward Jordan Caron was recalled from the Chicago Wolves and made his Blues debut in Tuesday’s 2-0 win against Boston.

Caron played 14 shifts Tuesday for 9:22 of ice time.

“(He played) heavy, strong on the puck, real good on the bench. Exactly what we need,” Hitchcock said. “If we expect to get saved offensively by people playing in the American League, that’s a big mistake on our part. But when we get guys from the American League and the coaching staff says these guys are playing heavy and hard down there, that’s exactly what we need. He played eight or nine minutes (Tuesday), they were real good minutes for us and we’re expecting him to extend that now.”

PROJECTED LINES

Carl Gunnarsson gets back in the lineup tonight after missing Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Joel Edmundson is expected to sit out.

Forwards

Magnus Paajarvi - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen - David Backes - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Scottie Upshall

Jordan Caron - Dmitrij Jaskin - Ryan Reaves

Defense

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Colton Parayko - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson - Robert Bortuzzo

Goalie

Jake Allen

BLUE NOTES

The Blues are 8-3-0 against Central Division opponents and have won four of their last five games overall.

The Blues and Stars have two of the most lethal forward combos in the League: Benn and Tyler Sequin lead the League with 92 points, while Tarasenko (38) and Steen (32) rank third with 70.

Paul Stastny has 34 points (17 goals, 17 assists) in 33 career games against the Stars.

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