The Blues, losers of three of their past four, visit Dallas for a rematch of last season’s second-round playoff series.
The St. Louis Blues face the Dallas Stars on Thursday at the American Airlines Center, meeting for the first time in the regular season since the two teams battled in an extremely competitive, captivating seven-game playoff series last spring.
The matchup finds both teams in much worse shape than they were during that postseason series; while complaints about the Blues can still somewhat safely be labeled as low-level concerns at this point, as they’re 5-3-2 and would be guaranteed a playoff spot if the postseason started today, the Stars are 3-4-2 and have dealt with numerous injuries and poor performances out of the gate.
As tempting as it is to write off the Blues’ brief period of struggle as one of their yearly slumps, concerns about their offense are actually rather valid since no one has really stepped up yet to replace the contributions of Troy Brouwer and David Backes, who had a combined 39 goals last season. Free agent signee David Perron has scored in just one game this season–he just so happened to collect a hat trick in that win over Calgary–and trade acquisition Nail Yakupov has no points in his past four games after collecting two goals and two assists in his first six games. Second-year winger Robby Fabbri, who many Blues fans expected to replicate or improve upon his 18 goals from last season, has yet to score through 10 games.
Considering that the team has scored just three goals in its past four games and 11 in its past seven, the lack of productivity from players not named Vladimir Tarasenko is rather troubling. Could a Stars team that allowed the Blues to score 25 goals in seven playoff games last season be the answer to their offensive woes?
Dallas will perhaps be the best test yet of how the Blues’ new “light” lineup will hold up against the rest of the league. With a heavy, physical group of forwards, including 6-foot-2, 210-pound Jamie Benn and 6-foot-3, 210-pound Jason Spezza, and a rugged cast of defensemen, the Stars may be the team against which the Blues miss Backes and Brouwer the most. The Stars were certainly the team against which those guys were most useful during last season’s playoffs, and there are no obvious candidates on the Blues’ roster to battle with those guys in front of the net this year.
Let’s take a look at the Blues’ projected lineup for Thursday: