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Blues Stars Hockey

St. Louis Blues center Ivan Barbashev (49) clears the puck away as Blues goaltender Ville Husso (35) and Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson, right rear, look on in the second period of a preseason NHL hockey game in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

DALLAS — There was a quick-strike goal by prospect Klim Kostin. There was aggressive, effective play by Joel Edmundson and Robert Bortuzzo as a defensive pair. And solid work in goal by Ville Husso and Adam Wilcox.

But the one thing that stood out most about the Blues’ play in their preseason opener — a 2-0 victory over the Dallas Stars — was the quick overall play by St. Louis, particularly in the first period.

“Yeah, everyone was energized, everyone was skating,” Bortuzzo said. “We looked fast. We played fast in our structure as a team. I think that’s where we have success. Everyone’s kind of buying into that structure and you have a cohesion and you’re looking quicker than you are.”

The Blues controlled possession and had the puck in the Dallas end for much of the first two periods. The Stars didn’t have their first shot on goal until just four minutes remained in the opening period. The Blues outshot their second-round playoff opponents from a year ago 10-2 in the opening 20 minutes and outhit them 16-8.

Robby Fabbri set the tone early, outracing a Dallas defender for the puck early in the Stars zone for a mini-breakaway but his shot missed the net.

Dallas played the Blues more evenly over the final two periods, but the Blues got the game’s only two goals — by Klim Kostin and Robert Bortuzzo — in their preseason opener played at American Airlines Center.

“I thought our guys did a good job, start to finish,” coach Craig Berube said. “Work effort was good, competitiveness was good.”

If you practice fast, you usually play fast, regardless of the sport. And Berube has stressed tempo from Day 1 of camp.

“It just goes with the way we practice,” he said. “We try to play fast and quick, aggressive. And then (the players) executed that.”

The Blues aren’t known as a speed team, but you wouldn’t have known it Monday.

“I know,” Ivan Barbashev said. “I was actually a little bit surprised. First game in the preseason, but I thought we did a pretty good job. Everybody was on top of the game. The third period was a little bit sloppy with the turnovers but otherwise it was a good game.”

There were only a few times when the Blues got caught running around in their zone. They were positionally sound and more often than not got the puck out of quickly.

Playing in his first game for the Blues’ organization since early March of last season for San Antonio, Husso stopped all 13 shots he faced in two periods of work.

“He didn’t have a lot of action in the first period, but he got some in the second,” Berube said. “Stood his ground, he was aggressive. I thought he looked calm in net, which he always normally is.”

Ankle problems sabotaged most of Husso’s season last year for the Rampage, but he’s eager to regain his standing in the organization

“It was nice to have a start,” he said. “It’s been a long time since when I played last game. So it was pretty exciting. It’s been long way (back). It’s nice to be healthy right now. I’m super happy.”

Adam Wilcox, new to the Blues this season after playing for the Buffalo Sabres’ AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., took over in the third period and was equally effective in goal, stopping all nine shots he faced.

“He moved the puck well, too,” Berube said. “I thought he was aggressive. Made a couple nice saves. Made a couple good puck plays with the puck which was important.”

Stars goalie Ben Bishop, of Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis, matched Husso save-for-save until Kostin sent a rocket of a shot past him at the 9:02 mark of the second period.

“He played with an edge,” Bortuzzo said of Kostin. “I think someone (on the bench) yelled, ‘That’s in!’ right before it got to his stick. He’s known for his shot. Barby put it right on a tee. A shot like that, it’s tough for the goalie to react.”

Barbashev, centering a line that included Kostin and Jordan Nolan, got the only assist on the goal.

“(Kostin) told me he closed his eyes when he was shooting,” Barbashev said. “I don’t know if we can believe it or not, but it was a good shot.”

Just 5 ½ minutes after Kostin’s score, Bortuzzo made it 2-0 Blues when his slapshot found its way through traffic past Anton Khudobin, who had just replaced Bishop in goal.

“Got a fortunate bounce off something,” Bortuzzo said. “We had two guys converging. . . .We had a couple great plays just to get the puck back (to the point).”

The Blues had several other prime scoring chances. Austin Poganski hit the crossbar on a tip-in attempt in the first period. In close in the third period, Oskar Sundqvist had an open net with Khudobin out of position, but was shaking his head when he failed to score.

With many of the team’s regulars staying back in St. Louis, Sundqvist centered what was the Blues’ top line Monday, flanked by Fabbri and Sammy Blais.

Mackenzie MacEachern missed some time in the first period after taking a puck to the face, but returned for the second period after getting treatment.

“I thought our whole team, the effort made and competitiveness was really at a high level,” Berube said. “We played fast. We played our game. From man to man, I didn’t think there was anybody that really had an off-game to be honest with you. I thought everybody was dialed in.”


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