The St. Louis Blues are rested and ready for a Conference III tilt with a Dallas Stars club that has been playing better lately than their overall record would indicate.
The Stars, before losing 4-0 at home to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, had won four straight. They'd almost climbed out of the Conference III basement, but then the Avalanche(s) had to go and kick the Blues' asses.
When the Blues and Stars last squared off, some Vladimir Tarasenko guy stole the show, capping off his first career hat trick with an overtime goal as the Blues won 4-3 way back on October 28th.
While Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza are doing their part to lead the Stars' offensive attack, the straw that stirs the drink for this team is Tyler Seguin . . . a Person Named Tyler that does NOT suck. While he's second in points behind Flyers wunderkind winger Jakub Voracek, Seguin leads the league in goals with 25 coming into tonight's action.
And good thing they have all that goal-scoring. Their defense is pretty wretched. They're 24th in the league in averaging 31.3 shots on goal allowed per game. And the stats lead you to believe their goaltending isn't much better, allowing 3.39 goals per game (only ahead of the Oilers).
Now, this morning's Blues line combinations were . . . interesting, to say the least:
#stlblues lines: Steen-Backes-Oshie, Porter-Lehtera-Tarasenko, Berglund-Stastny-Jaskin, Ott-Lapierre-Reaves.— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) December 27, 2014
The line of David Backes centering Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie stays together, as it probably should. The 21-26-23 line stays together, as it may have been the best line of the last two games. And, well, that fourth line. But look at who's with the Lehterasenko pairing . . . Chris Porter. CHRIS GODDAMN PORTER! If he has nothing else, he has speed.
Also of note . . . no Joakim Lindstrom and no Magnus Paajarvi, as usual.
The defensive pairings were about as expected:
Defensive pairs: Bouwmeester-Pietrangelo, Butler-Shattenkirk, Jackman-Lindbohm. #stlblues— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) December 27, 2014
Ian Cole takes his turn back in Ken Hitchcock's doghouse again. Carl Gunnarsson skated with the team today and took contact. He's close.
But, of course, the most important question these days . . . who's in net? Well, here you go:
Allen in net tonight. #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) December 27, 2014
Ride the snake.
For the Stars, according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, the team skated six defensemen this morning. They have a seventh recalled, Cameron Gaunce, but he wasn't at the morning skate, so that sounds like a game-time decision. Seguin and Benn were on the top line with Colton Sceviour and Spezza centered the second line (and Ales Hemsky is playing too, despite doing his best to be completely invisible this season). Trevor Daley was on the top defensive pair with the man who might have the best name in hockey at the moment . . . Jyrki Jokipakka! In net will be, in all likelihood, Kari Lehtonen . . . who honestly has had a shitty season for the Stars thus far, but Anders Lindback has been worse because . . . well . . . Anders Lindback IS worse.
So we'll see how it all shakes out come game time. Puck drop is somewhere around 7pm, so set your drinking schedules accordingly. And if you'll be there, buy a paper.
LET'S GO BLUES.