DALLAS -- The top two seeds in the Central Division get started Friday night in Dallas, as the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues square off at 8 p.m. ET in Game 1. Here’s what to watch for as each team tries to get the early edge:
The Blues advanced in large part because they shut down Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as they eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games. It doesn’t get any easier for St. Louis this round, as Stars captain Jamie Benn has been red-hot. Only the New York Islanders' John Tavares has more points in this postseason than Benn's 10. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he’ll look for every opportunity to get Benn on the ice in a favorable matchup with the series starting at home.
“I’ve got options,” Ruff said Friday morning. “I can drop him on a different line, not tipping my hand. There’s different places I can play him whether that means more offensive-zone starts, less defensive-zone starts, double shifting, not following a rotation, a lot of different things. It’s something we’ve been doing since day one.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will attempt to get forward Alexander Steen on the ice as often as possible against Benn’s line. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo averaged more than 30 minutes a game against the Blackhawks and was outstanding in that series. He will also be charged with containing the Stars' stars. Benn will see plenty of Pietrangelo, but Steen also was a big reason the Blues were able to limit the Blackhawks' stars so effectively in Round 1.
He’ll get a heavy dose of Benn.
“It’s a similar style to their team,” Steen said of the Blues. “A lot of firepower up front. It’ll be a similar game plan for us.”
Lehtonen was 3-1 with a .911 save percentage against Minnesota.
“They’re pretty similar,” Steen said of the two Stars goalies. “It’ll be important for us to get traffic, try and create some chaos outside their crease, get to loose pucks and make it tough on their defensemen to defend.”
In beating the Wild, Lehtonen advanced to the second round for the first time in his career, which should be a confidence boost for a talented goalie who lacks postseason success. He has the skill to be the best goalie on either side in this series.
When asked about that matchup, Ott took a little shot at Roussel.
“There are a lot better players to worry about over there,” Ott said. “His element is his element, but I think we’re a little bit different players.”
The Blues did a nice job of playing through some of the post-whistle antics of Chicago’s Andrew Shaw and others in the first round and have to compete with the same composure against Roussel, something Hitchcock concedes won’t be easy.
“I don’t think you can ignore that fella,” Hitchcock said. “I don’t think you can ignore a couple guys on our team. So you just have to play through it. He’s a good player who does a lot of things as a coach you like. We have a couple guys on our team [who are] exactly the same.”