The Dallas Stars get back at it following the NHL’s holiday break, playing the St. Louis Blues in a home-and-home back-to-back. The first game is tonight at St. Louis and the two teams will meet again tomorrow at American Airlines Center.
The Stars (26-7-2-54 points) have an eight-point lead over the Blues (21-11-4-46 points) in the Central Division with one game in hand, so there are big points at stake this weekend. The Stars have a chance to create some separation and the Blues have an opportunity to close the gap.
“I like [the back-to-back against the same team],” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think it creates a competitive edge, almost a playoff atmosphere. There will be some blood that spills over from tonight to tomorrow. That’s good for the game.”
With both teams coming off a three-day break and no practice time, it’s anybody’s guess as to what kind of game it will be.
“Sometimes you can get a solid game and sometimes you can get a pretty loosely contested game,” Ruff said.
Tonight’s game will be the Stars’ second game against the Blues. They lost 3-0 in St. Louis back on Dec. 12. They were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and got off to a rough start, getting outshot 17-5 in the first period and falling behind 1-0 two minutes into the game. They’ll look to turn things around this time.
“Last time, we had a tough start, and we didn’t even score a goal. For us, today, we want to show we are a better team,” said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. “We play two games in two days, so today we want to set the tone.”
Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so he is expected to get the start in goal. He is 3-0-0 in his past three games, stopping 71 of 74 shots. Niemi is 15-5-2 this season with a 2.30 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
The Stars are expected to roll out the same forward line combinations and defense pairs used in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Chicago at American Airlines Center. Jamie Oleksiak and Patrick Nemeth are the expected scratches on defense and Travis Moen is the expected scratch at forward.
Jake Allen will get the start in goal tonight for the Blues. Allen shut out the Stars on Dec. 12, stopping 26 shots in St. Louis’ 3-0 win. Allen has posted shutouts in his last two starts against the Stars dating back to last season and has a 156:15 shutout streak against the Stars.
The Blues play back-to-back games against the Stars this weekend and then take on two more Central Division foes – Nashville (Tuesday) and Minnesota (Thursday).
“It’s not an easy schedule to come back to but it’s one that gets us right into the game right away,” Allen told the Blues official site. “No excuses, just get out there, grind and get back to our game.”
Who: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues
Where: Scottrade Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Colton Sceviour
Mattias Janmark – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen
Magnus Paajarvi - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen - David Backes - Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Scottie Upshall
Jordan Caron - Dmitrij Jaskin - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Colton Parayko - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Scott Gomez, Joel Edmundson
Injured: Patrik Berglund (shoulder) Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Steve Ott (hamstring), Kyle Brodziak (lower body)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.