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Stars excited for tough challenge in second round

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

It was back to work Tuesday for the Dallas Stars, who got Monday off after wrapping up their first-round playoff series against Minnesota on Sunday. Now it is onto the second round and the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues advanced to round two with a 3-2 win over Chicago Monday night in Game 7 of their first-round series.

“I found myself a little anxious watching the game last night,” Stars forward Patrick Sharp said. “There was a lot on the line for us seeing who we’re going to play. We didn’t really have a preference one team or another. We know it’s going to be a tough second round.”

The Stars, who are coming off a 4-2 series win over Minnesota, will face a St. Louis team they battled down the stretch for first place in the Central Division and the number one seed in the Western Conference.

“They’re a big, physical team that kind of clogs up the slot, can kind of play good lockdown defense,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “They don’t give you much; they try to keep you to the outside. They’re probably similar to how Minnesota played by really getting five guys tight, but just a better version. They’re a team we have a lot of respect for and had close games with all year.”

The season series between the two teams was tight. The Blues won four of the five games, but three of those wins came in the three-on-three overtime or the shootout, which don’t apply in the postseason. In regulation play in the five games, both teams scored ten goals.

“It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be a tough challenge,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We had some tight games in the regular season, and it’s going to be a tight playoff series. That game last night (against Chicago) was just an example of what they can do. It was a pretty exciting game, and it looks like they are on top of their game, so it should be a good one.”

The Stars are feeling pretty good about their game right now. They came out on top in a tough series against Minnesota. It was the team’s first playoff series win since 2008.

“It’s huge. It’s the first step of a couple more we want to get,” Benn said. “For myself and a couple of other guys that I played with my first year, we’ve gone through some tough times and a lot of losing, so it’s nice to be on the other end of that, be successful and make it into the playoffs and get through the first round.”

There were some bumps along the way against the Wild, including the third period of Game 6 when the Stars almost blew a 4-0 lead. But the Stars hope that experience pays some dividends down the road.

“I think you flush out the bad, but there’s a lot of positives that we can take from that game, it’s an experience that our team went through,” Sharp said. “It’s a heck of an atmosphere in Minnesota. They were playing their best; pucks were going in our net. We found a way to hang on and win a playoff series. Although it might have been an ugly period for us, it was a playoff series, it was a win on the road, and if we can learn anything from it, we’ll be a better team going forward.”

And with the experience of the Minnesota series under their belts, it is on to round two and the Blues.

“It’s contagious in when you start winning games, you want to win more,” said Spezza. “It’s an exciting time of year; there’s less and less teams involved in playing, and it just gets more exciting. I think the first round was a good stepping stone for us, and we’re looking forward to getting started.”

There was not much new information on Stars forward Tyler Seguin, who missed the final four games of the Minnesota series with a lower-body issue related to his previous Achilles injury. Seguin still is not skating.

“Just still rehabbing, we don’t expect him to skate in the next few days,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

Center Cody Eakin did not practice Tuesday. Ruff said it was a maintenance day.

“We thought we’d give him one extra day, but he’ll be at the next practice,” Ruff said.

Here was the practice lineup for Tuesday. Valeri Nichushkin skated on the top line with Cody Eakin not practicing.

Valeri NichushkinJamie BennPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaStephen Johns

Kris RussellJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn/Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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