After a three-day break, the Dallas Stars get back to it tonight, taking on the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.
The Stars (14-14-5) come out of the break eight points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Stars lost 4-0 to Toronto at American Airlines Center on Tuesday, but they are 5-2-0 in their last seven games. They haven’t lost consecutive games since the first week of December, and the goal is to continue that trend.
“We don’t want to lose two in a row the rest of the way out,” said defenseman Alex Goligoski. “If we can do that, we’ll be sitting good.”
The Stars are still winless within the Central Division. They are 0-7-3 against their divisional foes and hope to end that trend tonight in St. Louis.
“For me, it comes down to one thing, and that is defending,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Whether it is in the division or outside the division, we have to be better defenders.”
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice this morning for the Stars, so it appears he start tonight against St. Louis.
Based on the morning skate, Colton Sceviour will be on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The second line will consist of Jason Spezza centering Erik Cole and Ales Hemsky.
Travis Moen is expected to be back in the lineup tonight. He hasn’t played since the Dec. 9 game against Winnipeg. Travis Morin is the expected scratch at forward.
No changes are expected on defense. The Stars did recall defenseman Cameron Gaunce from the AHL, but he is expected to be a healthy scratch.
Break comes at good time for Goligoski
The NHL’s holiday break came at a good time for Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski, who has been battling through a lower body injury. The injury had Goligoski sitting out most practices leading up to the break, but he played through the issue and didn’t miss any games.
“My injury is kind of fading away,” Goligoski said. “It’s hit a point where it is supposed to start feeling a lot better, and it coincided with the three-day break. It feels good.”
Quotable: Lindy Ruff on coming out of the break
"These games for me, you don't know what to expect. For three days, the players have been out of your hands. You don't know how much they ate. Christmas is a great time, but you have no control over them. Some players really pay attention to what they do, some players don't. So for me, there's been games after Christmas where you get really disappointed with some guys, and there's some guys where you know they've obviously taken care of themselves and got some fitness in.
"I think you'll see tonight – just like our practice this morning – you'll see some pretty loose plays. You're going to see maybe some bigger mistakes. I think you get through 20 minutes, usually that improves."
Jake Allen is expected to get the start in goal for the Blues tonight. Allen is 11-4-2 with a 2.69 goals against average and .903 save percentage.
St. Louis is coming off a 0-2-1 road trip in which it was outscored 14-6. The Blues, like the Stars, have had three days off duev to the NHL’s holiday break.
“I find these games, quite frankly, are loose. Very fast and very loose, and that’s not to our advantage,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We have to get the bruise-on-bruise feeling going quickly. That’s going to be important for us.
“One of the things, when you take three days off, your body kind of mellows out. Getting engaged, getting alert again is going to be important. If we’re not alert against Dallas, they’re going to be blowing right by us. We’ve got to get to our game early. If we get to our game early, I really like our chances. But if we’re chasing the game, it’s going to be advantage Dallas.”
Who: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues
Where: Scottrade Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Colton Sceviour
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Travis Morin, Cameron Gaunce
Injured: Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
Blues projected lineup
Alexander Steen – David Backes – T.J. Oshie
Chris Porter – Jori Lehtera – Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund – Paul Stastny – Dmitrij Jaskin
Steve Ott – Maxim Lapierre – Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Chris Butler – Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman – Petteri Lindbohm
Scratched: Magnus Paajarvi, Joakim Lindstrom, Ian Cole
Injured: Brian Elliott (knee), Jaden Schwartz (foot), Carl Gunnarsson (concussion)
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.