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'Elite goaltenders' should set Stars up well against Blues

By possessing possibly the best one-two punch in the league, Dallas has a great advantage in back-to-back games

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (30-19-5) at Blues (32-15-8)

7 p.m., Enterprise Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest PLUS

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

ST. LOUIS -- By possessing possibly the best goaltending combo in the NHL, the Stars do have a great advantage in back-to-back games. Dallas played back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday, and again Friday and Saturday this week with Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin splitting the games.

When you consider the fact Khudobin ranks seventh in goals against average and Bishop ranks ninth, the Stars can be pretty consistent.

"We're fortunate to have two elite goaltenders who are having great years," said Stars interim coach Rick Bowness, who will play Khudobin Saturday against St. Louis. "What's really good is that the players have as much faith in Dobby as they do in Bish, and they enjoy playing in front of Dobby as much as they do with Bish."

For several teams -- and for the Stars in the past -- players actually played a different style of game in front of different goalies. If there was an inexperienced backup, the team would generally be conservative. If one goalie didn't like to handle the puck as much, the team had to adapt.

Video: Bowness: Khudobin to get start for Stars at Blues

But Bishop and Khudobin play similar styles, and Bowness said the team really doesn't play any different no matter who is in.

Khudobin is 12-7-1 on the year with a 2.34 GAA and .927 save percentage. He's coming off a 5-3 win over the Rangers on Monday, which was his first game since Jan. 18 because of the All-Star break. He should be in a good rhythm with four days between games.

The key for the Stars Saturday is trying to carry over the good things from a 3-2 loss Friday at home to Minnesota. Dallas outshot the Wild 33-30, had a 65-58 advantage in shot attempts and had a significant edge in scoring chances. That said, it also made some key mistakes, including allowing the winning goal in the final minute of regulation.

"We have to play tonight like we did last night," Bowness said. "I know we lost the game, but we did a lot of good things and we have to play the same way in front of Dobby that we did in front of Bish and we'll get a real good chance."

 

Radulov sidelined by upper-body injury

Alexander Radulov ran into teammate Denis Gurianov during the game Friday and exited with an upper-body injury. He is listed as day to day and will not play Saturday against the Blues. That means Joel Kiviranta will jump back in and play his ninth NHL game.

Kiviranta, 23, was signed as a free agent out of Finland in the summer. He has tallied 11 goals and nine assists in 38 AHL games with the Texas Stars and scored his first NHL goal Feb. 1 against New Jersey. Because the Stars got healthy, Kiviranta had to sit the next three games, but there is a bit of excitement in seeing what he can do after that New Jersey game.

Video: DAL@NJD: Kiviranta nets rebound for first NHL goal

Kiviranta played 11:25 and had four shots on goal in that game. Bowness said it was unfortunate that he had to become a healthy scratch after that.

"We've liked the games he's played," Bowness said. "He hustles, he's on the puck, he hangs onto the puck, he makes plays, he's fearless. He goes into traffic, he goes into corners. He's done a really good job for us and we're anxious to see him play against a big team like St. Louis."

 

Johns expected to remain in lineup

The Stars continue to shuffle their defensemen. It appears that Stephen Johns will stay in the lineup and play back-to-back games for the first time since returning from post-traumatic headaches.

That will bear watching.

Taylor Fedun is expected to sit out his 10th straight game, and there was no indication in the morning whether Andrej Sekera would come back in or not. Sekera, Johns and Roman Polak have rotated healthy scratches, so we'll see who sits out tonight. Jamie Oleksiak, who has played every game this season, is also a candidate for a scratch.

 

By the numbers
7

The Blues have the best record in the Western Conference and also sit in first place in the Central Division with 72 points -- seven points ahead of the Stars. Dallas is third in the Central with 65 points and also third in the West. A regulation win tonight could make chasing the Blues a more realistic goal down the stretch. The two teams will meet two more times: Feb. 21 in Dallas and Feb. 29 in St. Louis.

 

4-5-1

Both the Stars and Blues have been struggling lately and are 4-5-1 in their past 10 games.

 

15

In his past 15 games against the Blues, Stars defenseman John Klingberg has 15 points (six goals, nine assists).

 

He said it

"We had a great start actually in New Jersey, too, but we didn't score. Then they got the shorty on us. That's how we want to start games. We had a great start tonight and a great first period, but we just didn't score. A fast start is the goal tomorrow night … find a way."

-- Bowness on the Stars not cashing in on enough of their offensive chances Friday against Minnesota despite scoring the opening goal for the first time in nine games

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Tyler Seguin

Denis Gurianov - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry

Mattias Janmark - Joe Pavelski - Joel Kiviranta

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen - Stephen Johns

Andrej Sekera - Jamie Oleksiak

Anton Khudobin

Ben Bishop

Scratched: D Taylor Fedun, D Roman Polak

Injured: RW Alexander Radulov (upper body), C Justin Dowling (lower body), C Martin Hanzal (back)

Join the Stars for Military Appreciation Night as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes at American Airlines Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

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, and listen to his podcast.

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