A trip to the Western Conference Final will come down to one game for the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues when they play Game 7 of their second-round playoff series Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
“It’s a best-of-one now,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We just got to bring our best game.”
“It’s Game 7,” said Stars forward Ales Hemsky. “All in.”
It was much the same from the other side.
“You get to go out there for one game, winner takes all, and you've got to leave everything on the line,” said Blues captain David Backes.
A Game 7 is special. The Stars have played 94 games and the Blues 95 – including both regular season and playoffs – and it comes down to this one game to keep the season alive and move on to the Conference Final.
“We’re two good teams. We’ve battled with them all season long for first place, and nothing has changed. We have to win the next one,” Hemsky said.
There’s a lot of mystique surrounding a seventh and deciding game, but it’s still a hockey game, and you can expect the usual deciding factors to apply.
“It’s the team who’s going to be able to execute and push through tomorrow,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said, “and then at times, hold off when the other team is coming with their push. … I think that you’re going to have some opportunities inside of tomorrow night’s game to seize the momentum in the game, to take advantage.”
The Stars did that in Monday’s 3-2 win in Game 6, cashing in on a couple of chances early in the game and then a power play late in the first period to build a 3-0 lead.
“It might be the same tomorrow night,” said Ruff. “We get an early power play, our power play in that first period, that could be the opportunity to seize the game. I think that’s what you’re going to see. You’re going to see there’s going to be opportunities to seize or change momentum in the game because we got two really good teams that are going at it here, two really close teams.”
The Stars and Blues have split six games in the series, four of them decided by one goal. They are two teams that were separated by two points in the regular season standings. A two-point edge the Stars gained on the final day, which gives them home-ice advantage for this seventh game.
Of course, home ice hasn’t meant much in the series. The visiting team has won four of the six games so far. But the Stars will take having the game at the AAC.
“We’ve worked hard all year to get to where we finished in the standings. Obviously, home ice is a big part of this,” said Benn. “We have a good record at home. We might have lost a couple games in this series at home, but it doesn’t matter. We’re going to be ready to go, and it’s huge to play in front of our fans.”
“I think it’s good to play at home. It’s going to be exciting with all the people in the stands behind us. I think that’s a great thing,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. “On the other hand, we still have to play a really good game to be able to beat a team like that.”
Stars center Tyler Seguin, who has missed the past ten games with a lower-body injury, skated on his own before Tuesday’s optional practice and then took part in the practice. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Seguin is progressing but is still not ready to play.
“Tyler still remains day to day. He’s just working on trying to get back,” Ruff said. “He’s been ramping up the skating again, and it’s just all part of the process. [Skating in practice] is a good sign. That’s a real good sign for us. It’s just another step in his process.”
But as far as being available to play, Ruff said Seguin is not there yet.
“He’s not available to play right now,” Ruff said. “I’m not going to try to deceive you, he’s not ready to play yet. He’s just hit his next step on the way back again. He’s closer than he was a couple days ago.”
Ruff revealed that forward Travis Moen is out with a hand injury. Moen, who was injured in Game 5 on Saturday, was wearing a cast Tuesday at the Stars practice facility in Frisco.
“Injured his hand and is going to be out for a good period of time. That cast is on I believe for at least three weeks,” Ruff said. “I didn’t even ask how it happened. It happened early in the game. He played the whole game with it.”
Everybody else on the roster is good to go, Ruff said.
“We’ve got some guys with minor bumps, bruises,” Ruff said. “We’ve got some players that are hurt, and I think they might have some players hurt too. It’s been a hard series so far, but all our bumps and bruises are available to play.”
“We would go into every game down the stretch trying to win and focus on what we have to do, but at the same time, we were checking our phones and the scoreboard to see what they were doing. We’ve built a pretty good rivalry here and what better way to settle it than Game 7.”
- Stars captain Jamie Benn on the rivalry with the St. Louis Blues
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.