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5 Keys: Stars at Blues, Game 4

Dallas has to capitalize on power-play opportunities, improve defense

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars play Game 4 of their Western Conference Second Round series Thursday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Blues lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Here are 5 Keys for Game 4:

1. DEFENSIVE MINDED

The Stars were undone by poor defensive play in Game 3, with too many turnovers leading to goals against.

"I think that for the most part it was us, we gave the puck away," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "There was no secret there. I think some of our puck support wasn't very good, which hurt us."

The Stars need to tighten that up in Game 4 to make it easier on their goaltender and to prevent the Blues from running roughshod over them, as they did in Game 3 for six goals. Defense hasn't necessarily been the calling card for the Stars this season, but if they can get back to where they were earlier in the series, it would be an improvement.

2. POWER-PLAY POTENTIAL

It's time for the Stars to make some headway on the power play. A unit that was fourth in the League in the regular season (22.1 percent) has yet to cash in against the Blues (0-for-11).

Asked if he thought his team was getting good looks, Ruff said, "No. I thought our structure was better, but I thought we buried our heads and shot a few that we shouldn't have shot. We've got some changes with Tyler [Seguin] out and [Patrick] Eaves out. We tried a little different setup and when you're trying these setups and you haven't practiced it, there's a little adjustment time. They're working hard at it. They haven't made a lot happen, but we're going to keep working at it."

If the Stars can solve their issues on the power play, that could help turn the series and get some momentum their way.

Video: Taking a look at the Stars vs. Blues upcoming Game 4

3. STICK WITH WHAT GOT YOU HERE

For the Blues, the message is fairly simple: Do what you do. Do what you did.

The Blues were able to overwhelm the Stars in Game 3, something they acknowledge won't be easy to do again for a second straight game. And, yes, there are improvements St. Louis can and should make. But right now, the Blues are playing the way they need to play to be successful.

"We saw what happens when we do it for a full 60 minutes," St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "It's great to see that result when you do the right things and you do what you're told. … Everything fell into place for us last game. It's not going to be that easy [Thursday], there's no doubt about it. Maybe you have one of those games in a series, but tonight's going to be another nail-biter. They have to play as a really desperate team tonight. If we can match that desperation and get to our game, I think we'll be just fine."

4. GO-TO GOALTENDER

Ruff touted the Stars' ability to shuffle between goaltenders as a positive. He has faith in Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, given what the pair has accomplished this season in the team's two-goalie rotation. But neither has been able to grab hold of the series against the Blues, with Lehtonen pulled early in Game 2 and Niemi pulled early in Game 3.

"We've had two goalies that have played really well that have got us to where we are," Ruff said. "And last time I checked, it was in a pretty good place. Do they stumble every now and then? Yeah, they do. But the alternative is I have another guy to go to all of the time."

Lehtonen was first off the ice at morning skate and appears to be the starter for Game 4.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm3: Lehtonen denies Stastny with his pad

5. EMOTIONALLY ENGAGED

The Stars all appeared to register the kiss that Ryan Reaves blew in the direction of their bench near the end of Game 3.

"I think the players note that, yeah, I think they do," Ruff said. "Our guys were embarrassed last night, and that's stuff you take to heart. That's stuff you use. We're a proud team."

Part of coming back from the 2-1 hole they're in will be finding a way to channel that embarrassment, that anger at their 6-1 loss in Game 3. They'll take it any way they can get it, even if the Blues were a bit surprised to see so much made of the gesture.

"Maybe we needed that," Ruff said Thursday. "If it's only 3-1, maybe we thought - I said in earlier games, I thought we played well. We didn't play well last game. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. We didn't play well enough to win. We deserved to lose 6-1 the way we played."

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