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Stars seek improved effort as they battle Blues

by Davis Harper

BLUES (11-7-2) at STARS (10-9-2)

TV: NHLN-US, FS-Midwest, FS-Southwest

Last 10: St. Louis 5-3-2; Dallas 5-4-1

Season series: This is the second of three season meetings, and the second at American Airlines Center. In the first, David Perron scored twice during a three-goal second period for the Blues and St. Louis held on for a narrow 4-3 victory.

Big story: St. Louis and Dallas both entered the shortened campaign with high expectations, but neither team has been able to sustain the type of hot streak necessary to meet them. The Blues are coming off a win against Edmonton on Friday, just their second in five games, while the Stars fell to the Oilers on Thursday for their fourth loss in six outings.

Team Scope:

Blues: So far this season, St. Louis hasn't exactly been the lock-down defensive outfit hockey fans have come to expect. The Blues allow 2.80 goals per game and kill only 80 percent of penalties, good for 18th and 20th in the NHL, respectively. But with a few more 60-minute efforts like the one they put forth Friday against Edmonton, the Blues could again be among the League's defensive elite. After conceding two first-period goals, St. Louis put a vice on the explosive Oilers attack, allowing only 10 shots over the final 40 minutes and 17 for the game. The Blues scored twice in each of the final periods to skate off with a convincing 4-2 win.

"I thought our second period was excellent," coach Ken Hitchcock said, referring to a period in which Kevin Shattenkirk snapped an 0-for-14 streak with a power-play goal. "I thought we did a lot of good things in the second and really started to take the game over."

Stars: It's been a season of trends for Dallas, and unfortunately the most recent trend seems headed in a negative direction. The Stars ground out a 5-4 overtime win in Columbus on Tuesday and headed home to face Edmonton, a team Dallas had gone 11-1-0 against in its previous 12 meetings. The Oilers went some way to erasing that history by shelling the Stars on their home ice, 5-1. Edmonton took 38 shots and scored in every period, with Dallas managing only a late Jaromir Jagr goal on Oilers backup Devan Dubnyk.

"I told players not to be at the rink tomorrow," coach Glen Gulutzan said after the game. "This was a stinker."

Who's hot: Blues rookie Jaden Schwartz skated on the top line with T.J. Oshie and David Backes on Friday, injecting some needed energy along with a goal and an assist.

"The line was good," Hitchcock said, "but he was the catalyst. He played very well. He played the right way, which was really good to see. I thought he gave the line some real moxie. They were able to read off of him. I thought he played his best obviously for us."

Injury report: Schwartz got his chance on the top line due in part to some key injuries to Blues wingers. Alexander Steen (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Saturday, while Andy McDonald (knee) and Vladimir Tarasenko (concussion) are day-to-day. … Philip Larsen (undisclosed) and Aaron Rome (foot) are day-to-day for Dallas, while Ray Whitney (foot) is expected back by mid-March.

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