St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars (A: -110, H: -110, O/U: 5)
Stars lead series 1-0
The Dallas Stars owned the NHL’s second-best home record during the regular season and look to continue that dominance when they host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series. The Stars squeezed out a 2-1 victory in Game 1 to improve to 8-0-1 in their last nine at American Airlines Center.
Although the Stars were clearly the better team in the series opener, coach Lindy Ruff understands what awaits his team on Sunday. “This series has just started. Game 1 is a long ways behind us right now,” Ruff said. “This is like a Game 7. They don’t want to go down 2-0.” The Blues won four of five meetings – three beyond regulation – during the regular season and finished two points behind Dallas for the best record in the Western Conference. “We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy series,” St. Louis netminder Brian Elliott said. “So we’re down one and now we’ve got to respond.”
TV: 3 p.m. ET, NBC, Sportsnet, TVA
Blues – B. Elliott (W/L: 4-4, GAA: 2.36, SAVE %: .932)
Stars – K. Lehtonen (W/L: 4-1, GAA: 2.01, SAVE %: .925)
ABOUT THE BLUES (53-27-10, 40-50 ATS, 35-42 O/U): After going toe-to-toe in a hard-hitting seven-game series against reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago, St. Louis couldn’t match the speed of Dallas, which poured 42 shots on goal but also enjoyed a surprised 32-26 edge in hits. Star forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who led the Blues with 40 goals during the regular season and scored four times in the first-round series win against the Blackhawks, logged 21:04 of ice time in Game 1 and absorbed seven of those hits. “It’s really fun to play against those guys because like (Stars captain) Jamie Benn said, ‘They hate us, we hate them.’ But it’s fun stuff,” Tarasenko said Saturday.
ABOUT THE STARS (55-24-10, 42-47 ATS, 48-39 O/U): Rookie center Radek Faksa, a former first-round draft pick who scored five goals in 45 games this season while splitting time between Dallas and the minors, set up one goal before scoring the decisive tally Friday – his second game-winner of the postseason. “He’s always in the right spot,” teammate Jason Spezza said of Faksa. “You can tell he’s been well-coached. He’s a big guy down the middle who doesn’t cheat, ever. Really good (defensively). When you have a guy who’s 6-3 and plays like that, it really helps.” With forward Patrick Eaves on crutches Saturday with a foot injury, Ruff said Valeri Nichushkin will play in Game 2.
* Blues are 0-7 in their last 7 Conference Semifinals games.
* Stars are 8-1 in their last 9 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Over is 11-1-4 in Blues last 16 games playing on 1 days rest.
* Over is 13-3 in Stars last 16 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
* Under is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings.
Nashville Predators at San Jose Sharks (A: +145, H: -165, O/U: 5)
Sharks lead series 1-0
Facing a fatigued opponent in the opener of their Western Conference second-round playoff series, the San Jose Sharks kept applying pressure until the Nashville Predators finally wilted. The Sharks look to ride the momentum of a five-goal third-period blitz when they host Nashville in Sunday night’s Game 2.
San Jose erased a slim deficit by erupting for five goals in the last 20 minutes for a 5-2 win over the Predators, who had a short turnaround after ousting Anaheim in a Game 7 showdown 48 hours earlier. “As the game went on we got better, and we could feel them on their heels a little bit,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. “It was just good to see the guys keep feeding off the crowd, feeding off goals and really pushing for that next one.” Nashville, which still trailed by one goal with just under two minutes remaining before giving up a pair of empty-net tallies, opted not to practice Saturday after surrendering a postseason-high 38 shots on net. “There were some good things and some bad things,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’re capable of playing better.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
Predators – P. Rinne (W/L: 4-4, GAA: 2.53, SAVE %: .915)
Sharks – M. Jones (W/L: 5-1, GAA: 2.15, SAVE % .917)
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (45-31-14, 38-52 ATS, 35-36 O/U): After its power play was muted by Anaheim in the first round, finishing a woeful 1-of-26, Nashville converted on 1-of-2 chances Friday, only to negate it by allowing San Jose to score twice on three attempts with the man advantage. “I think it was just shooting ourselves in the foot,” Predators center Ryan Johansen said. “We turned over the puck a few times, took a couple penalties, and they fed right into that. We just got away from our game plan and our structure a little bit.” While Johansen netted one goal and set up another, leading scorer Filip Forsberg was held off the scoresheet for the sixth consecutive game.
ABOUT THE SHARKS (51-30-7, 42-46 ATS, 45-35 O/U): Joel Ward established a clutch reputation with seven goals in 12 playoff games with Nashville in 2010-11 and he wasted no time tormenting his former team by assisting on the tying tally before scoring the go-ahead goal Friday. “You get to this time of year in the NHL and there are eight teams left and 22 sitting home, and there is very little separating the teams talent-wise,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “It’s usually will and strength and how hard you are willing to play. I think that is why he thrives, because those are his characteristics.” Linemate Logan Couture also was a presence with two goals in Game 1.
* Predators are 1-6 in their last 7 Conference Semifinals games.
* Sharks are 6-1 in their last 7 vs. Western Conference.
* Over is 4-0-1 in Predators last 5 road games vs. a team with a losing home record.
* Under is 5-1 in Sharks last 6 Conference Semifinals games.
* Under is 7-1 in the last 8 meetings in San Jose.