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Stars expect tough matchup against Blues

Dallas preparing for close games, physical series against St. Louis

by Steve Hunt / Correspondent

FRISCO, Texas-- The Dallas Stars played the St. Louis Blues five times this season and the Blues won four of them, including three games decided after regulation.

But the Stars, who host the Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round at American Airlines Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports), feel the margin between them and their Central Division rival is minimal.

"Well, they're a bigger team," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said after practice Tuesday. "They've got some bigger bodies, heavier bodies. They got some veteran guys that have got a ton of experience, and up front they're deep with their lines. We've played them hard and we've played them close. We've lost a couple in overtime, but it should be one heck of a series."

Defenseman John Klingberg was fifth among NHL defensemen with 58 points this season and had three points in Games 5 and 6 combined in the first round when the Stars eliminated the Minnesota Wild with six games.

But Klingberg, who had no points in four games against the Blues this season and has one assist in seven career games against St. Louis, expects the Blues to be more physical than the Wild were in the first round.

"It's going to be a different series with St. Louis," Klingberg said. "Minnesota is a really good defensive team, I think St. Louis is even better. [The Blues] have a goalie [Brian Elliott] who is playing really well now too, so scoring chances will probably go down. There's going to be a lot of physicality. It's going to be a fun series for sure."

Klingberg's defensive partner, veteran Alex Goligoski, who tied Dallas captain Jamie Benn to lead the Stars with five points against the Blues this season, agrees St. Louis is physical, but also sees the Blues as being better balanced than in years past, in part because of forward Vladimir Tarasenko, fourth in the NHL with 40 goals this season.

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"Yeah, they're obviously a physical team," Goligoski said of St. Louis. "They're going to play with a lot of structure, get above pucks. They got a little bit of a different look with [Vladimir] Tarasenko and [Robby] Fabbri and the [Jaden] Schwartz kid back now. I don't think they're as big and tough as they maybe have been in years past, they have a little bit more offense and skill in their game than they have in past years."

One way Ruff could try to counter the Blues physicality is by playing veteran forward Travis Moen, who played in one game in the first round (Game 6), but has 78 games of experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Moen, a member of the Anaheim Ducks' Stanley Cup championship team in 2007, played 23 games for Dallas this season, but Ruff feels he has the perfect skill set to be effective against the Blues.

"Yeah, [he has a] good, heavy body, big body," Ruff said. "I thought he played really good in the nine or 10 minutes he played in Minnesota [in Game 6]. He's proved effective when we've gone against the bigger, heavier teams."

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