Blues-Stars Preview

With their recent struggles behind them and a playoff spot secured, the St. Louis Blues can turn their focus to getting healthier while chasing their third division title in 28 years.

The Blues will move into a tie atop the Central Division on Friday night with a third consecutive road victory over the Dallas Stars, though that might be a challenging task without their top two scorers.

St. Louis seemed to be fading from the division race after 1-3-2 stretch left it four points back with six games to play.

Nashville, however, has lost its last two games while the Blues (47-23-7) snapped a two-game skid and clinched a postseason berth by closing out a three-game homestand with Thursday's 4-1 win over Calgary.

The Blues now have a chance to pull even with the idle Predators by winning the season series with Dallas (37-30-10). The squad's only division titles since 1987 came when it won the Central in 1999-2000 and 2011-12.

St. Louis, though, could be missing Vladimir Tarasenko - among the league leaders with 36 goals and 71 points - for a second straight game. He's day to day with a lower-body injury, but the club may be cautious so he'll be ready for the playoffs.

Tarasenko's absence would be big in this contest since he's scored five times in the four meetings.

The right wing had a hat trick, including the overtime winner, and added an assist in a 4-3 victory at Dallas on Oct. 28. He tallied another goal in a 3-0 road win March 15 and also scored in a 4-3 home loss Dec. 27.

Making things worse, Alexander Steen - second on the club with 62 points - might be sidelined again due to a lower-body injury. He's scored five times to go along with five assists in his past seven road games.

''Those are tough guys to replace, so we've got to do it as a group,'' said Jaden Schwartz, who scored Thursday's first goal.

Paul Stastny, who also had a goal, has scored eight times in his last nine trips to Dallas dating to his time with Colorado.

The Blues tightened up defensively and outshot Calgary 43-18 after they had given up eight goals in their previous two games. After Thursday's 17-save effort, Jake Allen could give way to Brian Elliott in the second of back-to-back contests.

Coach Ken Hitchcock yanked Elliott in favor of Allen after he allowed three goals midway through the first period of a 4-1 home loss to the Stars on Feb. 17. That loss ended Elliott's four-game winning streak versus Dallas.

Jamie Benn had three goals in that contest and he's also scored three times in his last four home games. The captain, who ranks among the NHL leaders with 74 points, had two assists in Monday's 5-3 home loss to Calgary.

Dallas is expected to turn back to Kari Lehtonen, who seeks a career-best 35th win but has allowed at least three goals in each of last five starts. The struggling netminder was pulled Monday after giving up four on 19 shots.

''I think it was more about just trying to get some new blood there and new excitement," said Lehtonen, who is 2-1-1 with a 2.49 GAA versus St. Louis this season. "That's just part of being a goalie."

The Stars have lost two of three since a 7-1-0 stretch, leaving them six points out of a wild-card spot with five games left.

Promoted Stories

More NHL