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Blues ready for challenge of defending Stars' top line in second round

Focus will be shutting down Benn, Seguin, Radulov

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues are ready for a new challenge against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Second Round, starting with Game 1 of the best-of-7 series at Enterprise Center on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET).

The focus will be shutting down the Stars' top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, which scored 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in a six-game win against the Nashville Predators in the first round. Blues defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Colton Parayko helped hold Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor to 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in their six-game victory against the Winnipeg Jets, none in Games 5 and 6.

"I think we did a good job … we didn't give them too many power plays," Bouwmeester said. "Like most skilled guys, if you give them that time on the power play to kind of feel the puck and get some confidence making plays, that usually transcends into their 5-on-5 game. I think it did early in the series, in the second game in Winnipeg, they had a couple on the power play and then all of a sudden, they just start feeling better.

"When you play against skilled groups like that, you need your forwards to come back and a lot of it is pressure and not giving up the blue line and tight gaps and all those things that you always here. But you can't do that without the back pressure and the work from the forwards."

Video: Previewing Second Round matchup between Blues, Stars

St. Louis will need more of the same against Radulov (four goals, two assists), Seguin (two goals, four assists) and Benn (one goal, five assists), who each had six points against Nashville. 

"It's just another big challenge," Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson said. "Last series, it was [Parayko and Bouwmeester]. They shut them down. I think we're going to rely on them to shut down Seguin, Benn and Radulov again. I think they get up for those challenges, but even us, when we get out there against those guys, it's a big challenge and we all step our game up. The first round, I think [Parayko and Bouwmeester] did a good job at that. 

Scheifele, Wheeler and Connor each like to play off the rush and possess the puck in the offensive zone. It will be more of the same with Benn, Seguin and Radulov, but they like to use their bodies more.

"Playoff hockey, it takes the whole team," Edmundson said. "Even the guys that weren't playing, they've got to be ready to hop in whenever. Everyone's bought in right now, so I think that's the biggest thing. Everyone's playing their role, everyone knows what to do out there and everyone's sacrificing their bodies taking hits, making hits, blocking shots. It's fun hockey to be a part of right now. It's not the easiest on the body."

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: St. Louis advances to Second Round

Seguin has 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 29 regular-season games, Radulov 16 (nine goals, seven assists) in 27, and Benn 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 39 against the Blues. The Stars captain had five (one goal, four assists) in the 2016 second round, when St. Louis defeated Dallas in seven games. 

"They play like a power forward line," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Led by Jamie Benn. He's a big guy, goes hard to the net and they're all decent skaters, or above-average skaters, and good-sized guys with skill. It's hard to handle them."


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