After Frenzy, Stars Move Forward Expecting That to Help

Jason Spezza and the Dallas Stars believe that frenzied 15-minute finish when they barely hung on to close out their first-round series will come in handy moving forward in the playoffs.

They know the St. Louis Blues will certainly be able to charge at them like Minnesota did.

"If anything, it's a great period for us because we survived it and now get to learn from it," Spezza said Tuesday after the Stars returned from a day off. "If we'd cruised to a 4-0 win, I don't know if we'd get as much out of that game. ... But when you survive something like that, I think it can be an advantage for us now to live through a situation like that and not just talk about it. You know kind of how it feels when teams put on that kind of pressure."

Dallas, the top seed in the Western Conference, opens the second round Friday night at home against St. Louis. The Blues outlasted the Chicago Blackhawks, last year's Stanley Cup champs, in a seven-game first-round series that ended Monday night.

The Stars finished their first-round series in six games. They led 4-0 going into the third period on the road Sunday and held on to win 5-4 after the Wild came within a fraction of an inch of tying the game in the final minute.

"I think if it would have been on the other side, they would have been devastated," coach Lindy Ruff said. "But to get through it, the desperation at the end of the game, even in the last few minutes, I thought was tremendous. ... I loved our desperation. We've just got to put that desperation in the right place."

When the Stars got back together Tuesday, they watched video from that wild game.

"Well, we were relaxed because we knew we were already in the second round," Radek Faksa said. "When we were on the bench, it wasn't that much fun. ... But it was a good experience for our future."

Dallas won only once in five games in the season series against the Blues, who got three of their four wins in overtime.

The second-round series provides another playoff rematch between Ruff and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who was coach of the Stars in 1999 when they won their only Stanley Cup, clinching it with a triple-overtime victory in Game 6 over Ruff's Buffalo Sabres. Hitchcock's Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated by Buffalo in a first-round Eastern Conference series in 2006.

Dallas was taking another day off Wednesday, getting some extra rest before what is expected to be physical series against the Blues — whose 107 points during the regular season were second-most in the Western Conference, behind the Stars' 109.

When the Stars were off Monday after getting home, left wing Patrick Sharp watched the Blues in their Game 7 against the Blackhawks, the team for which he was a Stanley Cup champion three times in six seasons before getting traded to Dallas last offseason.

Sharp thinks Dallas can be better off for the close third period Sunday.

"I think you flush out the bad, but there's a lot of positives that we can take from that game," Sharp said. "Although it might have been an ugly period for us, it was a playoff series, it was a win on the road, and if we can learn anything from it, we'll be a better team going forward."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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