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Stars looking for 'full-team effort' to steal Game 1

Benn says Dallas expects another physical challenge from St. Louis in its second-round series

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are down to eight teams. One of the battles to make it to the final four gets underway tonight when the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues drop the puck in Game 1 of their second-round series at Enterprise Center (8:30 p.m. CT; NBCSN; WBAP 820-AM).

This year's playoffs have already made history with all four division winners getting bounced in the first round for the first time ever. Overall, five of eight lower seeds advanced in the first round. Among them were the Stars, who defeated Central Division-champion Nashville, and the Blues, who defeated higher-seeded Winnipeg.


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"It's been a little odd, I guess. But it just shows the parity in this league," said Stars goaltender Ben Bishop. "Everyone says you have to get in the playoffs; you never know what's going to happen once you get into these best-of-seven series. It's whoever gets the upper hand and even a 1 (seed) versus an 8, they're still pretty close. It just shows the parity in this league.

"I guess I'm a little surprised, but at the same time, I'm not."

Maybe he's not surprised with the Stars and Blues advancing because of how well they played the second half of the season.

The Stars have been on a roll since late January, posting a record of 19-11-3 (41 points) after the All-Star break. That was the second-best record among the eight playoff teams in the Western Conference. Only the Blues at 23-6-4 (50 points) were better, so the Stars know they are facing a team that has been on a roll as well.

"It's going to take a full-team effort because they've got a full team over there that is clicking right now," Bishop said. "It's going to be important to stick to our game plan and worry about playing Dallas Stars hockey."

The Stars are expecting a physical series against the Blues, more than they saw in the first round.

Video: Stars bracing for physical series against Blues

"These guys are a big group over there," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "That's probably the one thing you can pinpoint in comparing them to Nashville."

Dallas would like a repeat of how it opened round one of the playoffs, taking Game 1 of the series in Nashville and putting some immediate pressure on the Predators.

"Every game is important," Stars center Tyler Seguin said, "but when you go on the road, you want to try to steal at least one, so that's the goal."

The Stars will make a couple of lineup changes for tonight's game.

Mattias Janmark, who missed the last four games of the Nashville series with a lower-body injury, comes in at forward and will play on the fourth line with Justin Dowling and Jason Spezza. Tyler Pitlick will come out of the lineup.

On defense, Jamie Oleksiak is out with a lower-body injury, so Taylor Fedun will come in and skate on the third pair with Ben Lovejoy.

Other than those two moves, the rest of the lineup is the same one the Stars used to close out the Nashville series.

Bishop, of course, gets the start in goal. He was superb in the first round series win over Nashville, posting a 1.89 goals-against average and .945 save percentage.


Blues prepared for Stars' strong defense

The Blues haven't played since Saturday when they defeated Winnipeg, 3-2, in Game 6 at Enterprise Center to advance to the second round.

The Blues didn't fare well against the Stars in the regular season, losing three of four games, but they aren't reading a lot into it. Two of the losses came after the All-Star break when both teams were starting to get their games in order, but one came when St. Louis was playing an eighth game in 13 days, and the other came on the second night of a back-to-back.

Still, the Stars presented challenges in the losses despite the tough scheduling.

"They defend really well," said Blues coach Craig Berube. "I think they do a good job in their zone of keeping things on the outside and keeping you on the outside, blocking shots. They do a lot of real good things that way, and I think at times it frustrated us this year, and we didn't get enough good looks offensively."

Video: Blues set to face Stars in Second Round of playoffs

Stars goaltender Ben Bishop was tough to crack as well, posting a 1.69 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in winning two of three games against the Blues.

"Well obviously his size, he's a big goalie and covers a lot of the net. He's got real good structure in there. He doesn't put himself in situations where he can't recover very often," Berube said. "It takes a real good shot to beat him. Second and third opportunities, that's where we've really got to do a good job, of getting in on the inside and getting these second and third opportunities, getting to the net hard against him."

No surprises with the Blues lineup. They'll go with the same lines and defense pairs they used late in the series against Winnipeg. Jordan Binnington is in goal. The rookie netminder has had a spectacular season, but the Stars were able to get to him in a couple of their regular season wins.

"Can't really pinpoint anything," said Benn, who scored four times in three games against Binnington. "Obviously a great goalie, great team in front of him. We're going to have our challenges here tonight."


Game 1: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues

Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis
When: 8:30 p.m.
Radio: WBAP 820-AM


Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jason Dickinson - Roope Hintz - Mats Zuccarello
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, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Julius Honka, Landon Bow, Joel Hanley, Dillon Heatherington, 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

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

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

Jordan Binnington
Jake Allen

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Michael Del Zotto, Sammy Blais, 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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