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Blues-Stars Preview

The Associated Press

Now that the Dallas Stars finally have reached a contract agreement with their star player, they can devote their full attention to what's happening on the ice.

Jamie Benn likely won't be around, though, to try and help contain Blues rookie sensation Vladimir Tarasenko.

Dallas looks to avoid a fourth straight loss in the series when it hosts St. Louis on Saturday night.

The Stars made an in-game announcement that received a loud ovation during Thursday's 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago that they had reached a five-year, $26.25 million contract with Benn, who was a restricted free agent after setting career highs with 26 goals and 37 assists last season.

"Jamie Benn has proven in his short, but very productive NHL career, that he is not only this franchise's cornerstone player, but also an emerging superstar in the league," general manager Joe Nieuwendyk told the team's official website. "We believe that Jamie has the necessary tools to continue his growth and lead this team into the next great era of Dallas Stars hockey."

Though the 23-year-old has returned to Dallas after playing in Germany during the lockout, he has to obtain his work visa and likely won't play until Monday at Columbus.

The rest of the Stars (2-1-1) will have their hands full attempting to slow down Tarasenko, who scored in St. Louis' 3-0 win over Nashville on Thursday and has four goals and two assists in his first four NHL games.

Tarasenko has shined playing on a line with Andy McDonald (two goals, two assists) and Alex Steen (four assists).

"It's a really interesting line because it's a throwback line," coach Ken Hitchcock told the team's official website. "It's a puck-possession line, a line that has three guys with the innate ability to find open space on the ice in a game that has no space. They find space. They find room to make plays, they find open people, they see the ice. It's a fun line to watch from the bench."

Steen scored as St. Louis (3-1-0) beat Dallas 3-2 on the road in the most recent meeting April 7. Jaroslav Halak made 33 saves in that contest and finished with 13 Thursday for his second shutout of the season.

He was pulled after allowing three goals on 11 shots Monday versus Nashville.

"Great bounce-back by him,'' said T.J. Oshie, who scored his third goal Thursday. "It's got to be tough (being pulled). You need a short memory.''

It's unclear if Hitchcock will start Halak or Brian Elliott, whose 24-save effort in Tuesday's loss at Chicago he lauded, against the Stars.

Dallas could choose to again go with Kari Lehtonen, who made 38 saves - plenty in spectacular fashion - during Thursday's loss. The Stars were ahead 2-0 before Chicago scored three power-play goals.

"If Kari isn't there, there is no game,'' defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "There's no chance we get a point.

"We've just got to tighten up defensively. You can't play like that all the time.''

Lehtonen is 5-1-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average in his last six starts in the series while Halak has a 1.67 GAA while winning his last three starts versus Dallas.

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