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Stars have chance to make statement in 'big game' against Blues

Dallas is four points out of first place in the Central Division, just behind the defending Cup champions

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (15-9-2) vs. Blues (15-5-6)

7:30 p.m., American Airlines Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest PLUS

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

DALLAS -- In addition to trying to bounce back from a 3-0 loss in Chicago Tuesday, the Stars get a chance to make a statement Friday in a game against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Dallas lost in double overtime of Game 7 in the second round against the Blues in May, and St. Louis sits four points ahead of the Stars in the Central Division, so lots to be excited about in this one.

"It's a big game for us," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "St. Louis ended our season last year, they're the defending Stanley Cup champs, they're a great team and we want to see how we measure up."

The Blues and Stars have been well-matched in the past two years. Dallas was 3-1-0 in the regular season last year, and St. Louis won the playoff series 4-3. The two teams met in the second game of the regular season this year with the Blues taking a 3-2 win in St. Louis. Shots on goal were 30-29 in favor of the Stars.

Video: STL@DAL: Montgomery on Stars' tough test vs. Blues

It's been a good rivalry so far, and it will be a good test for a Dallas team that has rediscovered its identity as an aggressive, skating, defensive team.

"We want to be aggressive, we want to put them on their heels, and we want to spend a lot of time in their end," Montgomery said. "A big part of our game that has evolved is our transition offensive, and we've got to continue to play fast."

The Blues had a seven-game winning streak in early November, but more recently have gone 3-2-3. They're still winning and still leading the Central Division, but they are dealing with a lot of injuries, and they have allowed 10 goals in the past three games. Jake Allen is expected in goal tonight, he's 8-5-0 in his career against the Stars with a 2.25 GAA and .916 save percentage.

Among the missing for the Blues are Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Bortuzzo, Alexander Steen, Oskar Sundqvist, Carl Gunnarsson and Sammy Blais.

 

What to watch

Justin Dowling returns to the lineup after battling a strange condition that has popped up now and again during his career. Dowling said there isn't really a name for what bothers him, but it's creates some nausea and some spots in his vision. He said it's similar to a migraine in which he gets vasoconstriction or vasodilation, and that affects how he is feeling.

"It's something I have had my whole life," he said. "Everyone relates it to a concussion, but it's not a concussion. It's a freak thing that happens. I had it in the preseason. It's just not getting enough blood flow."

Dowling said he has been working out and has felt normal during the past few days. He missed two games, and said he's excited to be back in.

"I was skating, so it's not like I've been gone too long," he said.

Dowling will jump right back to centering Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. In the five games they were together, Dowling had three goals and an assist, while Seguin had three goals and three assists, and Benn had three goals and two assists. In the two games where Dowling has been out, Benn and Seguin have no goals and two assists.

Video: VAN@DAL: Dowling chips rebound home from the doorstep

 

Bishop back in net; Janmark scratched

Ben Bishop is back in net for the Stars.

Bishop grew up in St. Louis and his family still resides there. He is 6-7-1 in his career against the Blues with a 2.20 GAA and .924 save percentage. He has won six consecutive decisions and is 9-5-1 on the year with a 2.23 GAA and .926 save percentage.

Dowling is back in, so Mattias Janmark comes out.

Taylor Fedun gave Roman Polak a rest on Tuesday, the second night of a back-to-back, but Polak is back in tonight.

Video: STL@DAL: Consistency, depth keys to Stars' success

 

By the numbers
39

Benn has 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) and is plus-13 in 40 career games against the Blues.

 

561

Blues center Ryan O'Reilly has taken 561 faceoffs, second-most in the NHL, and has won the second most at 320 (57.0 percent). Seguin has won 58.4 percent of his 344 faceoffs this season.

 

2.35

The Stars rank third in goals against average at 2.35, while the Blues rank fifth at 2.65. Dallas ranks fourth in save percentage at .923, while St. Louis ranks sixth at .916.

 

He said it

"We've been playing good hockey for a long stretch. If you don't score any goals, it's tough to win, but we had chances, we generated some things. It was a pretty crisp game. … We never felt overwhelmed or anything like that. It was a game that we felt like we had control of for a long time, actually. We didn't get the result, that's what we're striving for, so we'll look at a few things."

-- Stars forward Joe Pavelski after a 3-0 loss in Chicago on Tuesday that stopped the team's seven-game winning streak.

 
Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Justin Dowling - Tyler Seguin

Alexander Radulov - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Commeau

Denis Gurianov - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - Roman Polak

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: D Taylor Fedun, C Mattias Janmark

Injured: D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back)

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

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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