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Stars enter Game 6 focused on closing out series at home

Dallas can advance to the Conference Final for just the second time since going three straight years from 1998-2000

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

For the second time in two weeks, the Dallas Stars will try to close out a series and advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they host the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 at American Airlines Center on Sunday afternoon (2 p.m. CT; NBC; KTCK).

The Stars took a 3-2 lead in the second-round series with a 2-1 win in St. Louis Friday night and now sit one win away from a trip to the Western Conference Final. But first things first and that's one more win over the Blues.

"One game at a time," said Stars center Jason Spezza. "We've got to win the next one. This is a heck of a team we are playing. You don't get too far ahead of yourselves this time of year."

 

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After falling behind 2-1 in the series, the Stars have won the last two games to move to within a victory of advancing. It was the same script as in their first-round series with Nashville. The Stars fell behind 2-1 and then rattled off three straight wins, including a 2-1 overtime win in Game 6, to eliminate the Predators.

Video: Montgomery breaks down pivotal Game 5 win over Blues

While the Stars appear to be riding a wave of momentum in this series with two straight wins and three wins in the last four games, they're not counting on any kind of carryover into Sunday's Game 6 at the AAC.

"Every game is its own day, and you have to create new momentum every night," said Spezza. "So I think it's important we get back to it and try to get off to a good start on home ice."

"Momentum is not a thing in the playoffs. If we are feeling too good about ourselves we are going to get spanked [Sunday]," Stars defenseman Ben Lovejoy told the Stars' postgame show on Fox Sports Southwest. "We've done a little bit too much of that. We've come out after wins and feel like things might be easy. … We did not do that [Friday], and we need to do it again [Sunday]."

A lot of areas are trending the Stars' way as the series moves along. The Stars have outscored the Blues, 5-2, in 5-on-5 play over the last two games and allowed just seven high-danger chances 5-on-5 during that same stretch, according to naturalstattrick.com.

The Stars' top six forwards have out produced the Blues' top six forwards 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) to 13 points (six goals, seven assists). The Stars have had more depth scoring, getting goals from 11 different players compared with eight for the Blues.

Video: Lindell awarded cowboy hat for winning goal in Game 5

Special teams play has tilted Dallas' way in the series with the Stars outscoring the Blues 4-2 including both power-play and shorthanded goals.

And, of course, goaltender Ben Bishop has been superb. He's stopped 65 of 68 shots as the Stars won Games 4 and 5 to take the 3-2 series lead.

But despite the trends, the Stars expect the Blues come out with a big push Sunday to try to force a seventh and deciding back in St. Louis.

"[The fourth] is the hardest one to win," Bishop said. "We have to focus on what we do well and have our best game because we know they are going to have theirs."

 

Defense still up in air

Who will skate with Ben Lovejoy on the third defense pair Sunday is still up in the air. Dillon Heatherington got the nod Friday night with Jamie Oleksiak (lower body), Joel Hanley (upper body) and Taylor Fedun (undisclosed) unavailable to play.

"Uncertain right now if Fedun will be available," Montgomery said. "It's Fedun, Heatherington, and Bayreuther would be the three available. We do not think that Joel Hanley will be available."

Montgomery said that Oleksiak, who has not played since Game 6 of the Nashville series, did skate on Friday but was unlikely to be ready.

"Oleksiak is still out we believe," Montgomery said. "He did skate yesterday, but I haven't gotten an update yet on how he is feeling today."

 

No forward changes expected

Montgomery said he did not anticipate any changes with the forward group.

"I think everybody came out of that game pretty healthy so I don't foresee any changes, but we'll see how people are in the morning," Montgomery said.

 

Montgomery: Penalties not being called

The Blues have a 16-11 advantage in power-play opportunities in the series including 7-3 over the past two games. Montgomery was asked if he felt the Stars were doing enough to draw penalties over the past couple of games.

"Yes. I don't think they are being called. Be point blank about that," Montgomery said. "We have high sticks hitting us in the face. We have guys on breakaways getting slashed in the hands. We have goalies getting slashed in the back and not getting called."

 

Game 6: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars (DAL leads 3-2)

Where: American Airlines Center
When: 2 p.m.
TV: NBC
Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM/96.7-FM

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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