The Dallas Stars will try to continue their climb up the Central Division ladder when they host the St. Louis Blues Friday night.
The Stars are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, but interim coach Rick Bowness is trying to keep his foot on the accelerator.
“You look at Friday night coming in here St. Louis, that’s a battle probably for first or second place,” he said Wednesday night after the team’s 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. “We don’t want our guys to be satisfied. We haven’t done anything yet. We haven’t. We’re fighting for first, second or third. OK, so we’re still not in.”
The Blues blanked the New Jersey Devils 3-0 and Coyotes 1-0 in their last two games to stay atop the division with 78 points. The Stars, who have played one fewer game, are in second with 76 points — one point ahead of the third-place Colorado Avalanche.
“Do we watch what the opposition is doing? Certainly, but not to the point that we can get distracted,” Bowness said. “If you get distracted by the other team, you take away from the details that you want your team to focus on.”
Every game is critical down the stretch, but matchups against immediate rivals in the playoff chase carry extra weight.
“Obviously, you’re fighting with your division and you want to climb to the top, but you also want to push yourself away from the bottom,” Stars goaltender Ben Bishop said.
“It should be a fun atmosphere. It always is a good atmosphere down here when we play the Blues,” he said. “It’s a big game, and the next game after that is going to be important, too. That will be a fun one to play with the magnitude of it, but it’s just two points at the end of the day.”
The Blues allowed just 31 shots in their two victories this week to reestablish their team defensive game. Prior to that, they allowed four or more goals eight times during a span of 11 games.
“We’re paying pretty good attention to the details of the game, not so much worrying about the outcome but investing in the game the right way, the way we talk, the way we track,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said.
The Stars have lost two of their previous three games with the Blues this season. But they won their previous game between the teams 3-2 in St. Louis with Anton Khudobin stopping 23 of 25 shots and Roope Hintz scoring twice.
“They are one of the better teams in the league for sure,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “They are deep, they can play a lot of different ways, great goaltending, good defense. They’re a solid team all-around. It’s going to be a hard game.”
Bishop, a St. Louis native and former Blues goaltender, has a career 6-8-1 record against his former team with a 2.19 goals-against average and a save percentage of .926.
Since Jordan Binnington started in goal Thursday night for the Blues, Jake Allen will likely start in Dallas. He is 9-5-0 with strong ratios (2.17, .921) in 15 career games against the Stars.
–Field Level Media