NHL Hockey

Familiar faces, styles clash as Blues host Stars

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Two similar squads share the ice Thursday night when the St. Louis Blues host the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Both Central Division teams were among the league's best after the All-Star break in late January. Both teams rocketed up the standings thanks to strong defensive play. Both teams advanced by winning six-game sets against their favored counterparts -- St. Louis beat the Winnipeg Jets while the Stars upended the Nashville Predators.

"We kind of have a similar style where they don't give up a ton and play really good defensive hockey," Stars forward Blake Comeau told the Dallas Morning News. "They obviously have some guys that can put the puck in the net. They played a pretty good series against Winnipeg. Pretty familiar with each other, so it's going to come down to who can execute the best."

Dallas won three of their four meetings in the regular season, all coming after the calendar flipped to 2019, and is the only team to twice beat Blues rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington.

"We beat them, too," Binnington told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "So every game's a different game, new game. It's about composure ... playoffs, anyone can win. So we've got to prepare the same way and watch some video, just believe in ourselves and stick to our game plan."

Binnington and his Dallas counterpart will make for an interesting study in the series. While Binnington pushed himself into the Calder Trophy conversation by excelling after a midseason summons from the minors, the Stars have a more proven standout -- Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop -- between the pipes.

Thanks to Bishop, the Stars were the second-best defensive team during the regular season, and able to overcome being the third-lowest-scoring team in the league.

"He takes up a lot of the net," Blues defensemen Joel Edmundson said of the netminder who grew up in St. Louis. "I watched the (Nashville) series. He stood on his head every game. I think he won them a couple games. He's got the size, he's competitive.

"Even watching the game (Monday) night, he's talking to his defensemen, you can hear him on the ice. He's talking to everyone. So he's very verbal. He communicates a lot, so I think that helps out their team. But I think just for us, we've got to get bodies in the crease, or in front of him, take his eyes away and make it hard on him."

Offensively, the Blues have a more balanced and deeper attack, but the Stars have a lights-out top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov and a rising star in defenseman John Klingberg.

The Stars are looking at a couple of roster changes for the series opener. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak will miss the game due to a lower-body injury, and be replaced by Taylor Fedun. Mattias Janmark is expected to play in place of Tyler Pitlick.

--Field Level Media

Updated April 24, 2019

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