BLUES (1-1-0) at STARS (2-1-0)
TV: FS-MW; FS-SW
This is the first of four meetings between two teams that will close out the 2011-12 season against one another on April 7. The Stars dominated their matchups last season, going 4-0-0 against the Blues and sweeping a home-and-home series staged in late November.
Both teams are coming off impressive Monday night wins at home. In St. Louis, five different Blues scored in a 5-2 win over Calgary in which they outshot the Flames 35-17. Meanwhile, the Stars managed to pull out a 2-1 shootout win over Phoenix despite allowing 41 Coyotes shots. Loui Eriksson
's goal with 28 seconds left tied the game for Dallas before Mike Ribeiro
won it in the shootout.
St. Louis came into the season hoping a combination of veteran leadership and youthful energy could lead the team to the playoffs. That potent mix was on full display Monday night against Calgary. Two nights after dropping the season opener to Nashville, the team's 5-2 win was paced by second-year defenseman Alex Pietrangelo
and veteran forward Jason Arnott
, both of whom registered a goal and an assist.
But more impressive than the Blues' balanced offense on Monday was their team defense. In the two games they've played this season, St. Louis has allowed just 33 total shots, including an empty-net goal scored by the Predators on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Blues have fired 68 shots on the opposition, more than double their shots allowed.
"We've got our forwards working their tails off coming back into their own end," Pietrangelo said after the win over Calgary. "We're trying to block as many shots as possible from the (defensemen) and the forwards. We've got a lot of guys bearing down here and sacrificing. Top to bottom, that's what we need here."
After splitting a season-opening home-and-home series with Chicago, the Stars managed an exciting late-game victory over the Coyotes. The common thread in both Dallas wins this season has been the play of goaltender Kari Lehtonen
, who did not play in Saturday's 5-2 loss in Chicago. The Finnish netminder allowed just a single goal in each of the two Dallas wins and has stopped 77 of 79 shots so far this season for an impressive .975 goals against average. It's a promising sign considering Lehtonen is expected to help carry the team following the offseason exodus of leading scorer Brad Richards, who left in free agency to join the Rangers.
"He's playing so well," forward Vernon Fiddler
said of his goalie on Monday. "I've played against him a few times, and I knew he had a lot of skill, but not that much."
Brought in to provide veteran leadership for a young roster, Arnott has paced the Blues' offense so far, posting 3 points in two games. T.J. Oshie
has also shown the occasional spark for the Blues, contributing an assist in each of the Blues' games. … While Lehtonen has carried the Stars, Jamie Benn
has led the team's forwards with 2 points in three games.
For the Blues, David Perron
remains sidelined with a concussion sustained last season while B.J. Crombeen
(shoulder) and Carlo Colaiacovo
(upper body) are also out. … Stars defensemen Adam Pardy
(rib) and Nicklas Grossman
(groin) both practiced on Wednesday but aren't a certainty to play against the Blues.
Coming into the season, new Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray
hadn't played an NHL game since the 2009-10 campaign. But he's shown no signs of rust, posting 3 assists in three games and leading the Stars in scoring. It was his last-minute blast from the point on Monday that Eriksson deflected into the Coyotes net, allowing the Stars to eventually win in the shootout.
The Blues figure to benefit from Richards' departure from Dallas. In four games against St. Louis last season, Richards collected 7 points, including a winning goal that capped off a 3-point night in a 4-2 win on Jan. 2. The Blues will still have to contend with Eriksson, who has 13 points in 16 career games against them. Last season, Eriksson scored the shootout winner in the teams' first meeting before scoring the third-period winner six weeks later in St. Louis.