The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars stumbled out of the break with losses to Central rivals and face another big division game when they clash in the Lone Star State on Friday. St. Louis is tied with Winnipeg for second in the Central, one point behind Nashville after its 2-1 loss to the Predators on Wednesday while Dallas sits five points behind the Blues and is seventh in the Western Conference after Wednesday’s 4-2 setback at Minnesota.
“We had a lot of momentum when we took the (three-day Christmas) break,” Stars coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters. “Obviously with the show tonight, we’ve lost the momentum. So it’s on us to get it back. … We were playing very good hockey. Whether this is a one-off or not, we’ll see. But this was exactly the way we played earlier where you’re just hoping to win.” Dallas entered the break with two straight wins after going 2-4-2 on the heels of a season-best five-game winning streak. St. Louis has won five straight meetings, including 3-0 on Dec. 7 and 4-2 on Oct. 7 with Vladimir Tarasenko scoring in each game. Tarasenko, though, has only three of his 15 goals in his last 17 contests and hasn’t scored in the last five games.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FSN Midwest (St. Louis), FSN Southwest Plus (Dallas)
ABOUT THE BLUES (23-14-2): Brayden Schenn (team highs of 17 goals and 40 points) has only one goal and two assists in his last eight games. Schenn is struggling without linemate Jaden Schwartz (14 goals, 35 points) as are the Blues, who are 3-6-0 since Schwartz went down with an ankle injury. Paul Stastny (seven goals, 25 points) has only two assists in his last eight games and is minus-5 during that span, dropping his team-worst rating to minus-8.
ABOUT THE STARS (20-15-3): Tyler Seguin increased his team-high goal and point totals to 18 and 34 after scoring in each of the last three contests, recording four goals and an assist during that span. Jamie Benn (15 goals, 33 points) has continued his consistent play with four goals and five assists in his last nine games. Defenseman Marc Methot, who needs one assist for 100 in his career, was to return to practice Thursday and is expected to play Sunday against San Jose after missing 23 contests with a knee injury.
1. St. Louis is 14-for-14 on the penalty kill over its last four games, 25-for-26 in its past eight and 41-for-43 in 14 December games.
2. Dallas kicks off a six-game homestand and plays 14 of its next 20 at American Airlines Center.
3. The Blues, who are 6-3-1 versus the Central, do not play in the division again until Jan. 25 versus Colorado.
PREDICTION: Stars 3, Blues 2