MONTREAL -- First, brothers. Then, teammates. Now, opponents.
For the first time in their hockey careers, Jamie and Jordie Benn will be on opposite sides of the ice, sporting different uniforms, when the Montreal Canadiens host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
Acquired by the Canadiens in exchange for defenseman Greg Pateryn just before the NHL trade deadline, older brother Jordie has fit in seamlessly on Montreal's third pairing. His presence and steadiness have allowed coach Claude Julien to cut down on veteran Andrei Markov's minutes in the penalty kill, moving those shifts to Benn.
The 29-year-old is averaging 1:44 of short-handed ice time per game since March 2, leading all Canadiens defensemen. Shea Weber ranks one second behind.
"I got to see it every day and I got to see his growth in his game and as a person, so (his success) doesn't surprise me," Jamie said after the Stars practiced in Montreal on Monday. "I'm sure it helps that he's got some great players to learn from with Weber and Markov and the d-men they have. I'm more excited that he can be his own person in Montreal and really take off with his career."
As is often the case with brothers, battles in the basement as kids back home in Victoria, British Columbia, were a regular occurrence. But the elder Benn doesn't expect to be laying it on his brother come Tuesday night.
"Probably when he steps on the ice, I'll get yelled at to get off," a smiling Jordie said after Monday's practice. "I'll be on the bench, watching him play."
After finishing first in the Western Conference and advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, Jamie and his Stars are closing out a disappointing 2016-17 season. Dallas (31-33-11) was expected to be part of a fierce Central Division but instead sits second-to-last and will miss the postseason.
"We're playing for each other," Tyler Seguin told the team's website. "We're coming in every day and putting in the work. We're playing with some pride. We had a stint there where everyone knows it just wasn't good enough. It wasn't how we wanted to represent our organization. As of late, we've done a better job."
The Stars have won three of their last five games and earned points in four of those. While it has been a season-long struggle to keep the puck out of their net, lately that area has improved thanks to stellar outings from Kari Lehtonen. Lindy Ruff's crew has limited opponents to four (non-shootout) goals in the past four games.
Lehtonen has started all but two games in March and was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, are looking to avoid a repeat of last week, which saw the club go through a letdown against two non-playoff opponents after big wins against the Ottawa Senators. Montreal (42-24-9) pushed its Atlantic Division lead to three points with a win over the Senators on Saturday.
Special teams were the difference as the Canadiens' struggling power play broke through with two goals and the penalty kill, which has seen marked improvement under Julien, was a perfect 3 of 3.
The power-play goals were just the second and third Montreal has scored this month after connecting just once on 22 opportunities in the other 10 games it has played in March.
"It's always just execution," winger Brendan Gallagher said of his team's woes with the man-advantage. "It sounds simple, but it's kind of tough to go over, and game after game you've got to understand that you've got a job to do and you have to go out there and do it. You can't really go outside that, and if you try to do too much, it kind of counteracts that.
"If you just simplify it and stick to the structure ... good things will happen."