By LOU KORAC
DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars will tinker with their lines and make a change on defense for someone who hasn't played since December for Game 4 against the Blues today (8:45 p.m.; NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM).
Dallas feels it needs to get a different look down 2-1 in the best-of-7 series and will flip their top two centers with Tyler Seguin and Roope Hintz and insert defenseman Joel Hanley into the lineup for the first time since Dec. 18, replacing the struggling Taylor Fedun.
The Blues won't change their lineup but will give a bit of a different look at their power play, which is 1-for-9 in the series.
They will flip their quarterbacks and put Vince Dunn on the top PP unit and flip him out with Alex Pietrangelo.
Dunn will play with Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Schenn and David Perron, while Pietrangelo will QB Robert Thomas, Jaden Schwartz, Pat Maroon and Tyler Bozak.
"Just different look," Pietrangelo said. "Lefty-righty. Sometimes it works out better because who we're out there 5-on-5 with too, it's a little easier too. We're both staying fresh. We flipped last game and we might flip again tonight in certain situations. It's good to have that little 1-2 punch where you can kind of interchange each other because one of us might be caught out there. Just a different look.
"... We haven't had a whole lot of success. Mine was as close to a power play as you can get (a third-period goal to give the Blues a 3-2 lead), but just a different look sometimes to try and get something going."
Dunn was used on that top unit early in the season, and it had a different look to it. The Blues made an in-game switch on it in Game 3 Monday and don't have a problem doing so.
"I think it’s just a different look, like we have lots of defensemen who can be put in that role, so I think it’s just a different look more than anything," Dunn said. "It’s not like anyone is really struggling out there. Everyone is doing a good job. Maybe just try to switch things up a little bit, maybe to keep them guessing. But it’s nice obviously to be on the first unit. There’s great players on both units, I just think going over some plays and having some different looks, maybe we’ll be able to create some different momentum.”
"I was there at the start of the season and kind of been in and out throughout the second half. Yeah, I just don’t really know what to say about it … just kind of a different look more than anything."
The only adjustment the quarterback has to make it making those passes to the flankers like Tarasenko, Thomas, O'Reilly and Schwartz, or whoever's coming off that wall.
"I think Vladi, he’s very linear, he goes up and down on that flank very consistently," Dunn said. "I think passing it to him is a little bit different than passing it to Thomas. He likes to button-hook and create some momentum downhill. Obviously you have O’Reilly on the other side who’s more of a one-timer threat. On Schwartz’s side, he likes to kind of go in and attack with the puck. So I think it’s just kind of different looks on both sides of the flanks. I think both units have great net-front guys. They’re very active, big bodies to be moving out there. They have very good sticks and they like to create havoc in front of the net and create second and third chances up front. So I think overall both units are very similar, just maybe their movement on the sides are a little different."
Blues interim coach Craig Berube calls it just a change, nothing more.
"Yeah, that's all," he said. "You know, a lefty-righty vs. lefty-righty. Just a different look. Different player up top."
Berube was asked why Colton Parayko and his booming shot aren't used there more, but he feels like Parayko has a distinguished role with Jay Bouwmeester as the team's shutdown d-pair and wants him to focus on it.
"We have two guys we're using right now (Dunn, Pietrangelo)," Berube said. "We do use 'Pary' at times and we have over the course of the season. He has a role on our team right now and it's a very important role for sure. So a lot of times after power plays, they're coming with their top line and we want our top 'D' out there that's going to try to shut those guys down. So it's all little things like that. But we use 'Pary' at times on the power play, and there's times we don't."
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The Stars have used their top-line players (Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and Seguin) throughout the playoffs in the first round. They combined for 18 points against Nashville but not so much in this series, and Stars coach Jim Montgomery will move Hintz to play with Benn and Radulov, while sliding Seguin to play with Jason Dickinson and Mats Zuccarello.
The Blues don't control what the opposition does, but they have to feel like they're doing an effective enough job to force the Stars into changes.
"I didn't even know if they changed the lines today. I didn't look," Pietrangelo said. "They've been doing that throughout the series, even in Game 1, they changed the lineup. I think coaches this time of year are trying to get some extra jump and trying to play some matchups. You've just got to make sure you know who's out there because they're going to keep changing throughout the game too."
No matter who is out on the ice, Jay Bouwmeester and Parayko will line up against them.
"Most teams this time of year, usually when you don't win a game, something changes. Not a big surprise. They've done it," Bouwmeester said. "I think all playoffs, they've been moving guys around and they all play well together. They have a lot of offensively skilled guys and I don't think it matters what they do. It's more like how we play against those guys and try and not give them the chances they want."
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The Blues know they'll have to come out with the same intensity as they did in Game 3, maybe even come out with more.
With a chance to go up 3-1 in the series and put the Stars in a big hole, the Blues know Dallas will not crumble, but do the Blues want to come out the same way?
"No because you know that they're going to be a lot better," Bouwmeester said. "They're going to come out hard and try to set the tone and to the pace of the game and all that. We know what to expect, we know these guys. They've all been close games and all that. It's a battle of who can kind of get to their game first. There's been momentum swings within games. I think just from an overall focus, you look on having a good start, kind of one shift at a time more than anything."
The Blues won't take Dallas for granted.
"(The Stars) just don’t go away, no matter the circumstance," Parayko said. "They tied it up twice in the third there. They’re relentless and we’ve got to make sure we continue to play that way as well."
"We're going to have to play our best game, for sure," Berube said. "I believe that. They're gonna come out and play their best game, so we've got to be ready for that. We talked about that already."
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* With a win tonight, the Blues can set a franchise record for most consecutive victories on the road to begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They also started 4-0 in 1969.
* St. Louis is 6-1 in one-goal games in the playoffs.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
Brayden Schenn-Oskar Sundqvist-David Perron
Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas
Robby Fabbri-Ivan Barbashev-Alexander Steen
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Joel Edmundson, Michael Del Zotto, Sammy Blais, Zach Sanford, Mackenzie MacEachern, Chris Thorburn and Jared Coreau. The Blues report no injuries.
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The Stars' projected lineup:
Jamie Benn-Roope Hintz-Alexander Radulov
Jason Dickinson-Tyler Seguin-Mats Zuccarello
Andrew Cogliano-Radek Faksa-Blake Comeau
Tyler Pitlick-Justin Dowling-Jason Spezza
Esa Lindell-John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen-Roman Polak
Joel Hanley-Ben Lovejoy
Ben Bishop will start in goal; Anton Khudobin will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Taylor Fedun, Valeri Nichushkin, Mattias Janmark, Gavin Bayreuther, Brett Ritchie and Landon Bow. Jamie Oleksiak (lower body), Marc Methot (lower body), Martin Hanzal (back) and Stephen Johns (upper body) are all out.