The St. Louis Blues will renew an intense Central Division rivalry when they host the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
These teams waged a fierce seven-game battle in the second round of the playoffs last season. The Blues finally won the deciding game 2-1 in double overtime en route to the Stanley Cup championship.
The Stars fell to the Boston Bruins 2-1 in their season opener Thursday while the Blues got a point from their 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
St. Louis jumped to a 2-0 lead against Washington, then spent the last two periods chasing the game.
“We had a good start in the game but couldn’t maintain it,” center Ryan O’Reilly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It wasn’t good enough. I think we’re all disappointed. That was one we could’ve won, and we didn’t play well enough all around, starting with myself. I didn’t handle the puck well enough and had chances to make better plays and I didn’t.”
While the Blues returned most of their Stanley Cup-winning team, they are still adapting to a few lineup changes. Coach Craig Berube is looking for somebody to replace the departed Pat Maroon on the third line with Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas.
Robby Fabbri played there in the opener. He still trying to regain his game after recovering from two major surgeries in the same knee.
On the defense, newcomer Justin Faulk is still fitting in. When general manager Doug Armstrong acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes last month, he suggested that Faulk, Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko could all play on their natural right side.
But Berube decided to play Pietrangelo on the left side to pair with Faulk. He left Parayko with Jay Bouwmeester as the shutdown pairing and dropped Vince Dunn down to play with Robert Bortuzzo.
Berube noted the Pietrangelo-Faulk pairing is a work in progress.
“They did a lot of good stuff,” Berube told reporters. “I think it’s an adjustment though on that left side, defending the rush a little bit. I thought we could’ve been better. Maybe they could have been better with their gaps and stuff. But it’s new. So it’s going to take some time. We got a lot of work to do.”
The Stars sustained multiple casualties in their opener, with defenseman Roman Polak (fractured sternum) and forwards Jason Dickinson (upper body) and Blake Comeau (lower body) exiting the game with injuries. All are out for at least a week, as is Corey Perry, who missed the opener due to a broken foot.
Dickinson was playing on the Stars’ second line with Roope Hintz and Alexander Radulov. Comeau was on the third line with Radek Faksa and Andrew Cogliano.
“I thought everyone stepped up,” Stars coach Jim Montgomery told reporters after the defeat. “Everyone got increased minutes, and I thought everybody did well with those minutes. That was the positive, we had a lot of people play well tonight.”
Taylor Fedun will replace Polak on the blue line, and the Stars must tap into their AHL forward depth to get back to full strength for this game.
“It’s life in the NHL. Next man up,” Montgomery said. “We went through it all last year, so we’re a resilient group and a deep organization, and we’re going to be OK.”
–Field Level Media