Jan 16, 2012, 8:03 AM EDT
The time is now for the Dallas Stars to buckle down and figure out if they’re playoff contenders or pretenders and the St. Louis Blues will do whatever they can to keep them down at home tonight (7:30 p.m. ET).
The Stars have been besieged by injuries of late. A MCL problem has Mike Ribeiro on the shelf until after the All-Star Game while Jamie Benn is out of action for at least that long after having his appendix removed. That’s two of Dallas’ top four scorers meaning defense and goaltending are going to have to lead the way. Coach Glen Gulutzan has his hands full in keeping the Stars focused on the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the offensive production will have to come from Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder, Brenden Morrow, and Steve Ott. Ryder’s been a pleasant surprise and Eriksson is always good, but it’s a tall order to do it without their playmakers.
If there’s an upside to dealing with the Blues, it’s that you don’t have to score a ton of goals to hang in games with them.
The Blues have risen to the top of both the Central Division and Western Conference thanks to a renewed commitment to defense thanks to new head coach, and former Stars coach, Ken Hitchcock. Getting stellar goaltending from both Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak doesn’t hurt either. The Blues roll into tonight’s game winners of five of their last six.
Sure the Blues aren’t scoring a ton of goals, but they’re getting them from a lot of different guys. Six different Blues have double-digit goals and six different guys have 20 or more points on the season. While one of them is out in Alex Steen, guys like David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Jason Arnott, and Kevin Shattenkirk have picked things up from both the forward and defense positions.
They’ll have to get pucks past Kari Lehtonen tonight to keep winning and keep pace with Chicago and Detroit in the Central. Doing it against a Dallas team that knows their up against it starting tonight means the Blues will have to be especially sharp to win.
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