Preview: Stars at Blues
The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars have split the first four contests of the Western Conference semifinal, setting up what amounts to a best-of-three series heading into Game 5 on Friday night in St. Louis. Both teams understand the magnitude of the next matchup after each won Game 5 en route to posting six-game victories in the first round of the playoffs.
In danger of falling into a 3-1 hole after dropping Game 3 at home, the Stars spotted the Blues an opening goal Wednesday before responding with four unanswered tallies to level the series with a 4-2 victory. "(We've) been here before in the last series down 2-1, win Game 4," Dallas captain Jamie Benn said of the first-round meeting with Nashville. "We've had a couple good Game 4s. Now got to go into St. Louis for a big Game 5. St. Louis had been a perfect 4-0 on the road before Wednesday's loss but has the luxury of playing two of the next three in its own building, if necessary. "We're disappointed," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said after his team was clearly outplayed in Game 4. "That wasn't the kind of game we wanted, but it's a best out of three now and we're confident we'll turn it around."
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, TVAS, Sportsnet, Sportsnet360
ABOUT THE STARS: Coach Jim Montgomery swapped his top two centers in Game 4, moving rookie Roope Hintz between Benn and Alexander Radulov while shifting Tyler Seguin to a unit alongside Jason Dickinson and Mats Zuccarello. The results were spectacular as all six players hit the scoresheet, with Hintz and Dickinson scoring while Seguin, Radulov and Zuccarello collected two assists apiece. "I think what it comes down to is personally guys elevating their game," Dickinson said. "If it took shaking up the lines to get guys to do that, then that's a great move by the coach."
ABOUT THE BLUES: O'Reilly established a career high during the regular season with 77 points and is second on the team in the playoffs with eight after collecting four assists during a three-game point streak, including setting up both goals in Tuesday's defeat. However, O'Reilly has struggled mightily in the faceoff circle in the series against Dallas, winning only 36 of 92 over the past three games, while mustering only 12 shots on goals in the last seven contests. Rookie Robert Thomas had four shots on goal and netted his first tally of the playoffs in Game 4.
1. Hintz is tied for the team lead with five goals, the most by a Stars rookie since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.
2. Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo had an assist in Game 4 to boost his team-high total to nine points.
3. Zuccarello has six assists during a four-game point streak.
PREDICTION: Blues 3, Stars 2