The Dallas Stars kick off a key four-game stretch at home that will take them into a long break when they host the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center.
The Stars play the Blues, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, and Winnipeg at home over the next eight days and then will head into their bye week and the NHL All-Star break. The Stars are looking to make the most of these games at the AAC where they are 14-5-2 this season.
"It's just the importance of these games and getting as many points as you can before you go into a long break," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "With four games, we need to take advantage of the opportunity."
The Stars come into tonight's game in third place in the Central Division, two points ahead of fourth-place Colorado and three points ahead of fifth-place Minnesota. They are four points up on the ninth-place spot in the West, currently held by Anaheim.
Video: DAL@STL: Seguin buries Klingberg's dish in tight
"[These four games] are important because you can make a little bit of a push and create some separation not only to climb within our division but separate from people potentially chasing you in a wild-card position," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery.
As for tonight's lineup, Ben Bishop was the first goaltender off the ice at this morning's skate, so he will get the start against the Blues. Bishop stopped 26 of 27 shots in Tuesday's 3-1 win at St. Louis.
There will be no changes on defense, same pairs as last game: Esa Lindell-John Klingberg; Miro Heiskanen-Roman Polak; Julius Honka-Taylor Fedun. Connor Carrick will sit as the healthy scratch.
There will be a couple of tweaks to the forward lines. The top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov stays intact. Mattias Janmark will play left wing with center Jason Spezza and right wing Erik Condra. The line of Blake Comeau, Radek Faksa, and Tyler Pitlick is back together. And Roope Hintz will center Devin Shore and Valeri Nichushkin.
Video: DAL@STL: Bishop snares Tarasenko's point-blank chance
Dickinson inching closer to return
Stars forward Jason Dickinson, who has missed the last nine games with a back injury, skated with the team Saturday morning at American Airlines Center. Dickinson is getting closer and could be ready to play Thursday against Los Angeles.
"Dickinson is feeling good," Montgomery said. "Hopefully, a player by Thursday. That would be ideal."
Montgomery said there were no updates on Martin Hanzal (back), Marc Methot (knee), and Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches).
Video: EDM@DAL: Dickinson scores on Janmark's lucky pass
Opposition watch: St. Louis Blues
The Blues (18-20-4) are coming off a 4-1 win over Montreal Thursday. Jordan Binnington topped 28 of 29 shots for his second win in as many starts as the Blues won for the third time in five games.
Binnington, who made 25 saves in a 3-0 win over Philadelphia Monday in his first NHL start, will get the nod in net tonight against the Stars. The Blues will be without forward Robert Thomas, who suffered an upper-body injury in Thursday's game. Center Tyler Bozak (upper body) is also out. Forward Alex Steen (shoulder) is on the trip but won't play.
Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson is a game-time decision due to illness.
This is the second of four meetings between the Stars and Blues. The Stars won the first meeting, 3-1, in St. Louis on Tuesday.
The Stars are 14-5-2 at home.
The Blues are 7-7-2 on the road.
The Stars rank 11th in goals for at home (3.29/game).
The Blues rank fourth in goals against on the road (2.63/game).
The Stars rank fourth in goals against at home (2.48/game).
The Blues rank 27th in goals for on the road (2.31/game).
The Stars are 4-5-1 vs. the Central Division.
The Blues are 5-7-3 vs. the Central Division.
Stars center Tyler Seguin has points in seven straight games (six goals, five assists).
Blues forward David Perron has points in nine straight games (four goals, eight assists).
Video: DAL@STL: Lindell slides across to block a sure goal
Who: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 8 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM/96.7-FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Erik Condra
Blake Comeau - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Devin Shore - Roope Hintz - Valeri Nichushkin
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Julius Honka - Taylor Fedun
Scratched: Julius Honka, Connor Carrick
Injured: Jason Dickinson (back), Martin Hanzal (back), Marc Methot (knee), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches)
Blues projected lineup
Jaden Schwartz - Brayden Schenn - Vladimir Tarasenko
Zach Sanford - Ryan O'Reilly - David Perron
Pat Maroon - Oskar Sundqvist - Robby Fabbri
Mackenzie MacEachern - Ivan Barbashev - Sammy Blais
Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester - Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn - Robert Bortuzzo
Injured: Tyler Bozak (upper body), Alexander Steen (shoulder), Robert Thomas (upper body), Carl Gunnarsson (illness)
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.