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Stars eager for 'fresh opportunity' against Blues in second round

Dallas enters the series looking to advance to the Western Conference final for the first time since 2008

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

With their first-round playoff series win over Nashville behind them, the Dallas Stars now turn their attention to trying to accomplish something the organization hasn't done in more than a decade -- winning a second-round series.

Standing in their way are the St. Louis Blues, who knocked off Winnipeg in Round 1.

The Stars begin their quest Thursday when they take on the Blues in Game 1 of Round 2 at Enterprise Center in St. Louis (8:30 p.m. CT; NBCSN; WBAP 820-AM).

"They're a really good team. I think they've been the best team since Jan. 1," Stars goaltender Ben Bishop said following Wednesday's practice at Comerica Center in Frisco. "Both teams are feeling good about themselves. Both teams are playing well if you are in this position.

"You can't get too satisfied. It's 0-0 again, and it doesn't matter if it's the first, second, third, or fourth round, you have to start with a clean slate and prove yourself again each round."

The last time the Stars won a second-round series was in 2008 when they defeated San Jose in six games to advance to the Western Conference final. The Stars made it to the second round in the 2016, but lost to the Blues in seven games.

"You don't forget what happened in the past, but they have a lot of new players and we have a lot of new players," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "This is a fresh opportunity for two great teams to compete to move up."

The Stars and Blues were two of the better teams over the second half of the season. After the All-Star break, they had the two best records among the eight teams that qualified for the Western Conference playoffs. The Blues were tops at 23-6-4 (50 points) while the Stars were 19-11-3 (41 points).

The Stars won three of four games in the season series, but players aren't reading a lot into that.

"It's a whole new season," said Stars center Tyler Seguin. "It's hard to take too much [from it]. You look at some systematic stuff, but playoffs isn't the regular season. It's new, it's different. You look at them against Winnipeg, and I am sure they looked at us against Nashville.

Still, Stars coach Jim Montgomery saw a couple of those wins against St. Louis that came after the break -- when both teams had turned things around and had started to click -- as key for his team.

"I think it helps that we played them when they were getting to their best, and we were getting to our best," Montgomery said. "Especially the last two games. That game that we played here that we won, that first period, they were at another level, and we were lucky to be hanging on because of our goaltending, and then we caught up to that speed.

"That helped us get better significantly just as far as the work ethic and intensity we needed to compete against a high-end playoff team."

There doesn't appear to be a lot separating the two teams right now. Montgomery sees a lot of similarities in the way the two teams play.

"We are going to have to fight for every inch of ice against them," Montgomery said. "They defend really well. They are almost mirror images of how we play. Getting to their net-front is not an easy task. [Goaltender Jordan] Binnington has been superb for them, but the people in front of him make his job real easy. We can't allow those guys to keep our forwards from getting to the net-front."

And that will be one of the many battles that will get underway Thursday night in St. Louis as the Stars and Blues kick off Round 2.

"We're ready to get things going," Seguin said. "Excited to get on the flight today and get to St. Louis."

 

Notes: Oleksiak out for Game 1 with lower-body injury
  • Stars forwards Alexander Radulov, Mats Zuccarello, and Tyler Pitlick did not practice Wednesday. Montgomery said all three will be available to play Thursday.

  • Stars forward Mattias Janmark, who missed the last four games of the Nashville series with a lower-body injury is expected to play Thursday.

  • Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak did not practice Thursday. He is out for Game 1, Montgomery said, and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

  • With Oleksiak out, Gavin Bayreuther moved from the AHL squad to the regular practice group and skated on the fourth defense pair with Joel Hanley.

 

Round 2, Game 1: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues

Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis
When: Thursday, 8:30 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSN
Radio: WBAP 820-AM

 

Wednesday's practice lineup

Jamie Benn- Tyler Seguin-Brett Ritchie
Jason Dickinson - Roope Hintz- Valeri Nichushkin
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Justin Dowling - Jason Spezza

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Taylor Fedun - Ben Lovejoy
Gavin Bayreuther - Joe Hanley

Ben Bishop
Anton Khudobin

For complete postseason coverage, visit Stars Playoff Central.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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