Stars host Blues in pivotal division clash

DALLAS -- The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars meet for the fifth and final time in the regular season on Saturday afternoon at American Airlines Center, and both sides know exactly what to expect from this Central Division matchup.

"Big game," Blue coach Mike Yeo said after practice on Friday. "We've got a big road trip and every game on this trip is big. Always the first game of a trip's always a big one. They're playing well. We've had tight games against them every game in their building, in our building. They've been intense. I think special teams is going to be a real important part of the game tomorrow and we'll have to be ready to go."

St. Louis (35-26-4, 74 points) edged the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 at Scottrade Center, which ended a seven-game losing streak and was just the Blues' third win in their past 10 contests (3-6-1).

The Blues, who are 15-12-4 away from home and start a four-game trip in Dallas, defeated the Stars in each of their first two meetings of the season, both in St. Louis -- 4-2 on Oct. 7 and 3-0 on Dec. 7.

However, it's been a much different story in Dallas as the Stars have won both meetings in the Lone Star State: 4-2 on Dec. 29 and 2-1 on Feb. 16.

"It's going to be a big one," Blues center Kyle Brodziak said. "We know what the standings look like. I think guys are going to be excited for it. Just another opportunity to play a hockey game and hopefully we'll play it well."

Yeo wouldn't designate a starting goaltender for Saturday's matinee, but the prevailing thought is that he will go with backup Carter Hutton over starter Jake Allen.

The Blues are 9-9-2 against the rest of the Central. St. Louis could get defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, out the past five games with a lower-body injury, back for Saturday's game.

Dallas (36-23-5, 77 points) is currently 1-1-1 through three games of its five-game homestand, including a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

One part of that overtime loss to the Lightning which pleased first-year Stars coach Ken Hitchcock was seeing his team overcome a 4-2 deficit after 40 minutes to tie the game, force overtime and come away with a point.

Such late comebacks have been a rarity for Dallas this season. The Stars are just 1-18-2 when trailing after two periods of play.

"Well, we played a strong territorial game (in the third period)," Hitchcock said Friday after practice. "We ground out I think seven or eight scoring chances in the third and two goals. It's an exhausting way to play because there's not a lot of energy when you're mounting a comeback like that, but you feel good confidence-wise that you can do it again. I think that's the biggest thing, we worked our way back in that game."

Hitchcock designated Ben Bishop as his starting goaltender against St. Louis.

The Blues are 1-1-0 since trading forward Paul Stastny to Winnipeg at the trade deadline early last week, but Hitchcock, who coached the Blues until last winter, feels they've come together nicely after such a big move.

"Well, you either go up or down, and there's no in-between (after a team makes a trade like that)," Hitchcock said. "It looks like they gathered themselves in. They're thinking they can get within a point here and we're thinking that we can create five points, so it's a big game obviously."

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