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Focused Stars 'know what's at stake' entering Game 7

Montgomery preaching smart hockey as 'jacked-up' Dallas prepares for its win-or-go-home series finale

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

It's down to a winner-take-all Game 7 between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues. The two teams square off tonight at Enterprise Center in St. Louis with the winner advancing to the Western Conference Final.

"Obviously excited for what is ahead here tonight," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "We all know what's at stake. Every little play matters out there, so it raises up the intensity, and it should be fun."

"It's a Game 7. Anything can happen," said Stars forward Mats Zuccarello. "Something you dream of when you're a kid is to play a Game 7, so it's going to be exciting for both teams."


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The Blues have home-ice advantage tonight, but it hasn't mattered much in the series. The Stars have won two of three on the road in this series and are 4-2 away from home in the postseason.

"We've played some good games there, we don't feel afraid going to that rink and playing," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "But we know it's going to be tough."

The Stars want to rely on what's got them this far, leaning on the style of play that helped them put together one of the best records in the conference after the All-Star break to secure a playoff spot and then oust Nashville, the first-place team in the Central Division, in Round 1.

"It's play to our identity, have the right attitude -- a relentless style of play," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "And also, it's a Game 7 of the playoffs. Let's go embrace this. This is what legends are made of. So go out there and play your game, fulfill it and help us win a hockey game."

Video: Stars emphasizing smart hockey in Game 7

There may not be much of a pregame speech from Montgomery. The situation says it all.

"If you have to do a speech in Game 7, to get to the Western Conference Final, something's wrong," Montgomery said. "Our guys are jacked up. They're ready to go."

There are no lineup changes expected for the Stars tonight. Roope Hintz didn't skate this morning, but Montgomery said Hintz will play. The Stars center took a shot off the foot in Sunday's Game 6 and was wearing a walking boot on his left foot Monday.

"Just maintenance," Montgomery said. "He doesn't need to be out there with the minutes he's been playing."

The Stars are expected to roll with the same lines, so Hintz will center Benn and Alexander Radulov, while Tyler Seguin will have Jason Dickinson and Mats Zuccarello on his wings. Radek Faksa will center the third line with Andrew Cogliano and Blake Comeau. The fourth line will have Mattias Janmark, Justin Dowling, and Jason Spezza.

The defense pairs are expected to be the same: Esa Lindell and John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen with Roman Polak and Taylor Fedun alongside Ben Lovejoy.

Ben Bishop will get the start in goal. Tonight will be Bishop's third Game 7. He's won the previous two, both by shutout during the 2015 playoffs when he helped Tampa Bay make it to the Stanley Cup Final.


'No distractions' for Blues entering tonight

Home ice hasn't been kind to the Blues in this year's playoffs. They've lost two of three to the Stars in the second round and are 2-4 at Enterprise Center through two rounds. So, they'll try to treat Tuesday's Game 7 as a road game, heading to a hotel after this morning's pregame skate.

"We've done that a few times in playoffs is get a day room and guys are together, eating together at the hotel," said Blues coach Craig Berube. "There's just no distractions. You can focus on the game and relax and get in the game here. Everything's taken care of for them, and that's important.

Despite the spotty home record in the playoffs, the Blues can lean on closing out their first-round series against Winnipeg at home.

The Blues held an optional skate this morning, so there were no line rushes, but the expectation is that they'll go with the same lineup as Sunday's game.


Game 7: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues (Series tied 3-3)

Where: Enterprise Center
When: 7 p.m.
Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM/96.7-FM


Stars projected lineup

Jason Dickinson - Tyler Seguin - Mats Zuccarello
Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Justin Dowling - Jason Spezza

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Taylor Fedun - Ben Lovejoy

Ben Bishop
Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Tyler Pitlick, Joel Hanley, Dillon Heatherington, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Julius Honka, Landon Bow, Gavin Bayreuther, Denis Gurianov, Joel L'Esperance, Nick Caamano, Adam Mascherin

Injured: Jamie Oleksiak (lower body)

Injured Reserve: Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), Marc Methot (knee surgery)


Blues projected lineup

Sammy Blais - Ryan O'Reilly - David Perron
Jaden Schwartz - Brayden Schenn - Vladimir Tarasenko
Pat Maroon - Tyler Bozak - Robert Thomas
Ivan Barbashev - Oskar Sundqvist - Alexander Steen

Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester - Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn - Carl Gunnarsson

Jordan Binnington
Jake Allen

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Michael Del Zotto, Robby Fabbri, Zach Sanford, Mackenzie MacEachern, Chris Thorburn, Jared Coreau

Injured: None

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 since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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