ST. LOUIS -- Coming off a blowout, which has been rare in these Stanley Cup playoffs, the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues square off in Game 4 at 8 p.m. on Thursday in St. Louis. This game will go a long way toward deciding if the Stars are up to the challenge against a Blues team that's starting to find another gear.
Here’s what to watch for in Game 4
• The Dallas goaltending continues to be the story of this series with both Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi taking turns getting pulled in the last two games. If the Stars are going to re-assert themselves in this series, they need one of the two goalies to settle things down and make the big save that hasn’t come since Lehtonen’s strong performance in Game 1.
Lehtonen was the first one off the ice Thursday at the morning skate and looks to be the Game 4 starter for the Stars. He was solid in the third period against the Blues in Game 3 and is looking to build off that in this game.
“I think there was some good stuff for sure in the third,” Lehtonen said. “I tried to take the good things and then the things I didn't like I try to learn from. That's something I've tried to always do. That doesn't change.”
• The Stars took some exception to Blues forward Ryan Reaves blowing a kiss toward the bench near the conclusion of Game 3. This series hasn’t had the physical edge some of the other playoff matchups have had. The next suspension will be the first. But Dallas' players definitely didn’t like the gesture from Reaves, and they are adding it to the motivational mix heading into Game 4.
“I think the players note that, yeah, I think they do,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Our guys were embarrassed [Tuesday] and that’s stuff you take to heart. That’s stuff to use. We’re a proud team.”
“I just told him it’s a gutless shot at the end of the game,” Reaves said. “It’s the playoffs, and obviously he’s trying to finish his check, but still a pretty dangerous hit.”
• It's not surprising that the Blues, coming off a blowout win, will look to keep the same lineup as Game 3, based on the lines and defensive pairings run at the morning skate. On Wednesday, Hitchcock did suggest that we’d see Steve Ott at some point during this series, but he is still working to get his game where it needs to be following his long return from injury.
• The Stars were a loose team after their morning skate, delaying interviews in the dressing room while the team finished up singing a Shania Twain song. So yeah, they appear to have put the ugly Game 3 loss behind them.
“The feeling’s pretty good in here,” captain Jamie Benn said Thursday morning. “Obviously we need to bring a better effort tonight. We’re still a loose group knowing this is going to be a long series. We’re just looking forward to tonight.”
The Stars believe they played too loose in Game 3 and look to tighten up defensively in front of their goalies tonight.
“We’re at our best when we’re playing good D,” he said. “When we’re good at that, it feeds into our offense.”