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Depleted Stars try to slow down Blues in St. Louis

by Davis Harper

STARS (24-18-1) at BLUES (26-12-6)


Last 10: Dallas 5-5-0; St. Louis 6-2-2

Season Series: This is the third of four meetings. The teams split the first two, with each team winning at home. On Dec. 26, St. Louis chased Stars starter Richard Bachman after 40 minutes and held on for a 5-3 victory, their first win over Dallas in six meetings (1-4-1).

Big Story: Ken Hitchcock, the in-season coaching replacement that has the Blues vying for the Western Conference's top spot, will face one of his former teams when St. Louis welcomes Dallas on Monday. St. Louis will try to add to its League-best 18 home victories against a team fighting to get into playoff position -- but playing without its top two centers.

Team Scope:

Stars: Dallas lost a critical game on Saturday when Colorado came to the American Airlines Center and left with a 2-1 win. Leading scorer Jamie Benn was held without a point for the second straight game, and Dallas' special teams didn't do the job -- Colorado scored the winning goal on the power play, and the Stars went 0 for 3 with the extra man. The Stars are 3 for 36 on the man advantage over their past 11 games.

"I think that our 5-on-5 play is good," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "I think our power play has to improve."

Blues: Anyone holding out for a midseason Blues collapse will have to wait a little bit longer, as St. Louis has looked as strong as ever in recent games. After dropping three straight to close out 2011, St. Louis has won five of six in January - including Saturday's 3-2 shootout win against Minnesota. It was St. Louis' first shootout victory in six tries, and another physical affair for the Blues. Twenty penalties were handed out, including a fighting major and game misconduct for David Backes and the Wild's Justin Falk just 58 seconds in.

"I think when things kind of ramp up in that area, that's kind of what we like," said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who won the game by scoring the only goal in the shootout. "That's what kind of drives us and doesn't allow us to really sit back, and kind of like Hitch always says, let our skill get ahead of our work."

Who's Hot: St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has two goals and seven assists over a six-game point streak.

Injury Report: Dallas took a hit on Sunday when Jamie Benn, the Stars' top scorer with 42 points, underwent an appendectomy. He's out for at least 10 days. The Stars will also be without center Mike Ribeiro, who will miss his fourth straight game with a slightly torn MCL. Philip Larsen (concussion-like symptoms) and Tomas Vincour (knee) are on injured reserve. … For St. Louis, Kris Russell (groin), Alexander Steen (concussion-like symptoms), Kent Huskins (ankle) and Andy McDonald (concussion) are all on IR.

Stat Pack: Saturday's win gave the Blue a 20-5-6 record under Hitchcock, who replaced Davis Payne on Nov. 6.

Puck Drop : "You gotta get some points in these games, if it's 1-1, 0-0, 2-2 games, you gotta hold that, take it to overtime and try to manufacture points. It's really what this league is all about and especially in those last 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 spots, just manufacturing points, put yourself in position to get one of those spots." - Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan on the points race.

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