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Blues continue trip with visit to Dallas

by Mike G. Morreale

BLUES (29-25-9) at STARS (28-22-12)

Last 10 -- St. Louis 6-3-1; Dallas 6-3-1

Season series -- This is the third of four meetings, the teams have split the first two. In the most recent meeting on Nov. 25, the Blues knotted the season series with a 4-3 shootout win at Dallas.

Big story -- Both the Stars and Blues are in a dogfight for playoff positions in the Western Conference. The Stars are currently ninth, just one point shy of eighth-seeded Calgary. The Blues, meanwhile, are 12th -- four behind of the Flames. The Stars have won seven of their last nine games at home and 10 of their last 13 (10-3-0).

Team Scope

Blues -- The Blues have reeled off four straight victories -- over Detroit, Toronto, Washington and Phoenix -- and need to continue that trend in order to climb the Western Conference playoff ladder. That won't be easy as the club is in the midst of a six-game road trip that began in Phoenix -- a 5-2 victory -- on Tuesday and continues through Dallas, Colorado, Long Island, Columbus and Minnesota. The impressive decision over the Coyotes moved the Blues within three points of the idle Detroit Red Wings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"I haven't even looked at the standings, but we're playing well," Blues center and Team USA silver-medalist David Backes said. "We've got 20 guys committing to the system and the team-first attitude. We've had good results and hopefully we'll keep going."

Stars -- A couple of intriguing storylines from Dallas coming out of the Olympic break were the addition of goalie Kari Lehtonen from Atlanta and the subtraction of goalie Alex Auld -- claimed off re-entry waivers by the Rangers on Saturday. That pretty much confirmed that veteran Marty Turco would finish out the season with the Stars. Since the acquisition of Lehtonen, Turco has gone 3-1-1 in his last five games with a pair of shutouts (both against Phoenix).

Who's hot -- Stars forward James Neal has 2 goals and 5 points over his last five games. He has 5 goals in his last 11 games (8 points) and 10 points (5 goals) in his last 13. His team-leading 24 goals equal the total he collected as a rookie in 2008-09.

Injury report -- For the Stars, forward Brian Sutherby (shoulder) and defenseman Mark Fistric (knee) are day-to-day. Blues center Keith Tkachuk will be sidelined another 8-10 days after undergoing surgery on a broken finger during the break.

Stat pack -- Dallas coach Marc Crawford is two wins away from No. 500 for his NHL career behind the bench. He's in line to become just the 15th coach in League history to accomplish that feat.

Puck drop -- "It's going to be exciting (down the stretch)," Crawford said. "I think the break came at a good time for our club, because I think that even though we were playing well, I do think we're going to benefit well from the rest that was provided, especially for people like Stephane Robidas and Mike Modano. You go down the list, and there were clearly some guys who were fatigued. Coming down the stretch, we were winning because our goalie was playing remarkably well and we were getting some timely scoring from our group."

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