St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars: Game Preview and Opponent Outlook


The St. Louis Blues take a quick one-game road trip to Dallas on Tuesday night, where they’ll face the Stars, who have been up and down while getting off to a 4-3-1 start. The Blues will attempt to get their first winning streak of the season going as they try to build momentum following Saturday’s home victory over the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

We talked to Alex Frank of our fellow Stars FanSided site, Blackout Dallas, to get some more in-depth info on what to expect from Dallas tonight.

1. Obviously the Stars didn’t get as far as they wanted to in the postseason last year, and then we saw them make some big moves this offseason with the acquisitions of guys like Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. With so many aging veterans on the roster, is your sense that Dallas is taking an “all or nothing” approach to this season?

AF: I know the team is expecting to make a little more noise in the playoffs this year, but I wouldn’t necessarily call the approach “all or nothing” just yet. Spezza and Hemsky are both 31, and I think it’s reasonable to assume they have a few more years before they experience a significant decline. The Stars have a young core and an abundance of near-ready prospects, so the impression I get is that GM Jim Nill is looking to fill in the gaps while coaching the young players into maturity. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a veteran forward or two (the first name that comes to mind is Erik Cole) shipped off before the deadline in order to bolster the defense.

2. More specifically on Spezza–a guy that the Blues reportedly had interest in during the offseason–what have been your initial impressions of him, and is he a guy that really changes the dynamics of how the Stars play?

AF: Spezza’s most immediate impact so far has been on the power play. As of this writing, Dallas is tied with St. Louis and San Jose for sixth in the league with a 25.0% PP conversion rate, and he has had a hand in all but one of their seven power play goals. What’s troubling is the lack of a reliable second line presence. He was brought in ostensibly to relieve the pressure on Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin by anchoring a productive second line, but so far his biggest even-strength impact has been alongside those two. Given the limited sample size and his proven hockey acumen, I have no doubt that Spezza will expand his role as he gels with his teammates.

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3. A guy on Dallas’s roster who doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, but really jumps out at you with his 6-foot-7, 250-pound build is 21-year-old Jamie Oleksiak. What have been your impressions of him thus far this season, and do you think he can have an impact similar to a player like Zdeno Chara or Tyler Myers?

AF: Oh man, I certainly hope he can! Oleksiak has been a staple of the (AHL affiliate) Texas Stars’ defense for two seasons, and he’s starting to see more time with the big club. His massive stature comes with a nontraditional skill set, and so far he has struggled to make an impact. I’d say his development pace is typical, but given the proper time and coaching he should be around for years to come.

4. The Stars seem to have had far more success on the road than at home to begin the season. Is there any discrepancy that you see between their on-ice performance at home and on the road, and do you think it’s something that could affect them against the Blues?

AF: For the life of me, I can’t find a pattern in their play outside of the record itself. They outplayed the ‘Hawks at home and lost the shootout, but they played real hockey for only the last thirty minutes in Pittsburgh and forcibly took the win. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead at home against Vancouver, and settled for a 6-3 win in which they were badly outplayed for most of the second and all of the third. Goalie Kari Lehtonen seems to be settling in after a rocky start, but backup Anders Lindback has allowed nine goals in two losses. The only constant seems to be the scoring ability of the top line, although that won’t earn a win on a nightly basis. This team has unlimited potential, but it needs to find a way to be perform for stretches at a time. As far asTuesday night’s game goes, I guess we’ll just have to see.

Thanks to Alex for giving us a Dallas perspective on things.

The Blues may be without forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan Reaves, both of whom have been affected by the bacterial infection which is running its way around the locker room. Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson will make his 2014-15 debut after missing the season’s first seven games while recovering from offseason hip surgery. Head coach Ken Hitchcock mentioned the possibility that the team could dress seven defensemen on Tuesday, which would allow Gunnarsson plus the team’s current top six d-men to stay in the lineup. Brian Elliott will get the start in goal against Dallas.