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Blues, Stars adjusting to life without key players

by Louie Korac

STARS (26-22-8) at BLUES (37-15-4)

TV: FS-SW, FS-MW

ST. LOUIS -- When the puck drops Tuesday for the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars, each team will have one common denominator: they're missing key pieces from their respective lineup.

The Blues (37-15-4) have adjusted to life without all-star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who is recovering from abdominal surgery and is listed out week-to-week. The Stars (26-22-8), jockeying with a handful of teams for one of two Western Conference wild-card spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will play their second game without center and leading scorer Tyler Seguin, who is out 3-6 weeks after sustaining a knee injury last Friday as a result of a clipping incident with Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

Like the Blues, who have had their defensive depth tested without Shattenkirk, the Stars will have their forward depth tested in an effort to see who can help alleviate what's missing with Seguin out of the lineup.

"It's difficult on the offensive side; he's been a big part of our 5-on-5 play," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's getting production from deeper in our lineup.

"When the [Cody] Eakin line is scoring, when the [Vernon] Fiddler line that's been kicking a few in, the goals were coming pretty good. Last game, we stayed on the perimeter too much. We didn't get enough pucks inside and didn't create the second opportunities. That went for every line. Our challenge tonight against a team I feel has very good structure is make sure that we're trying to kick a hole in their defense and get inside."

Without Seguin, who leads the Stars in goals (29) and points (59), it thrusts center Jason Spezza, who is third on the Stars with 44 points, into a larger role.

"This definitely puts more responsibility on me and on Jamie [Benn] to drive the offense a little bit," Spezza said. "We have to make sure we're good 5-on-5 and be a solid line for us. We're going to get tough matchups every night.

"… We're in the thick of trying to chase down some teams. We don't have the luxury of giving up any points. Losing a guy like Tyler's a big loss for us, but it gives us an opportunity to kind of come together as a team and other guys to step up."

The Blues will make an adjustment to their lineup. Coach Ken Hitchcock will flip centers Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera.

Lehtera had been centering the "STL Line" with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, and Stastny had been centering a line with Patrik Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin.

Hitchcock is searching for more balance. When asked, he joked, "I don't know, two days off, got bored. I'm not sure.

"Yeah we are going to tinker," Hitchcock added. "We're loading up a little bit here. We'll see. This only works if it works.

"You talk about top-six and one of the strengths of our team has been depth. I don't think who Lehtera plays with [matters]; he plays the same way. He brings a lot to the game, he brings a real definition to the game. I think he can have a really strong influence on Jaskin and [Berglund] and we're hoping Stastny and Tarasenko and Schwartz really step up and become a top-six line and play a like a top-six line. If they do, then it really gives us some advantages moving on. This isn't cast in stone; probably write it in pencil right now."

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Jamie Benn - Jason Spezza - Erik Cole

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Curtis McKenzie - Vernon Fiddler - Brett Ritchie

Travis Moen - Shawn Horcoff - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Jyrki Jokipakka - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Jason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: David Schlemko.

Injured: Tyler Seguin (knee), Patrick Eaves (concussion), Ales Hemsky (lower body), Valeri Nichushkin (groin), Patrik Nemeth (arm)

BLUES

Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund - Jori Lehtera - Dmitrij Jaskin

Steve Ott - Marcel Goc - Ryan Reaves

Chris Butler - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Jay Bouwmeester

Barret Jackman - Ian Cole

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Joakim Lindstrom

Injured: Kevin Shattenkirk (abdomen), Chris Porter (ankle)

Status report: Fiddler, a veteran of 710 NHL games, will get the first test playing between two players with 26 NHL games combined. … Porter is close to returning to the lineup. He hasn't played since Dec. 29 (20 games). … Roussel returns after missing two games because of a suspension.

Who's hot: Spezza has a five-game point streak (three goals, four assists). Benn has three goals and four points in the past three games. … Schwartz has 17 points in 18 games since returning from a broken foot. Tarasenko, who leads the Blues with 29 goals, has scored in five of the past eight games.

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