The season may be six weeks old, but the Dallas Stars are facing adversity for the first time.
Dallas looks to stop its longest losing streak of the season at two games Thursday when it concludes a four-game road trip against the last-place Phoenix Coyotes.
The Stars (11-4-0) are tied with Anaheim and San Jose for the most wins in the Western Conference, but have lost consecutive games for the first time.
After opening the trip with a 3-2 victory over Edmonton, Dallas fell 2-1 to Vancouver on Monday, and was a 3-1 loser to Calgary one night later.
"It's a concern because we lost both of the games," said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. "In the past, it wasn't a concern because we were finding ways to win when we weren't scoring goals."
Some of the Stars' top offensive threats have cooled off lately, including Morrow, who has one goal in 11 games after scoring four times in his first four contests. Center Mike Modano has been limited to one assist in the last three games, while right wing Jere Lehtinen has no goals in eight contests.
"We've lost two in a row and that's never a good thing, but we can finish (the road trip) up at .500 with a win on Thursday," said Stars forward Eric Lindros. "We weren't sharp enough and we needed to bury our chances, especially a few we had on the power play."
While Dallas' offense has been held in check lately, its penalty killers continue to dominate. The Stars denied all seven Calgary power plays on Tuesday and have killed off 23 of their last 24 short-handed situations. That unit ranks third in the league at 90.6 percent.
The Coyotes (4-10-0) are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for the fewest points in the West, but did erase a two-goal deficit in a 6-4 victory Saturday over Los Angeles.
Shane Doan returned to the lineup with two goals, and David LeNeveu stopped 38 of 40 shots in relief of struggling Curtis Joseph.
"He's our captain. Players look to him for leadership and physical play," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "He scored a big goal to get us started. He looked 100 percent better tonight than he has the last three weeks. It was good to see."
Getting Joseph straightened out has to be Gretzky's top priority now.
The 17-year veteran has allowed 16 goals in his past four starts and has a bloated 4.40 goals-against average with a 2-6-0 record.
"We haven't lost confidence in him by any means," Gretzky said. "A couple of bad games doesn't make a player's career over, but I just felt that we needed a shake-up after that second one went in."
Whichever goalie Gretzky decides to start on Thursday, he would benefit from a less porous defense. The Coyotes are allowing 32.4 shots per game and have surrendered a league-worst 63 goals.
Phoenix also ranks 22nd in the NHL with 36 goals scored, while its power play has converted only 11.4 percent of its opportunities.
Dallas dominated the first meeting between the teams this season, a 4-0 road victory Oct. 21. Mike Smith stopped 22 shots in his NHL debut, and four different player scored for the Stars, who have won four of the past five meetings. Modano has 83 career points against the Phoenix-Winnipeg franchise, his highest total against any club.
|Mar 27 '07||PHX 0 at DAL 6||M. Ribeiro|
|Mar 24 '07||DAL 4 at PHX 3 - SO||J. Lehtinen|
|Mar 18 '07||PHX 4 at DAL 5 - OT||M. Ribeiro|
|Jan 09 '07||PHX 5 at DAL 2||S. Doan|
|Dec 09 '06||DAL 4 at PHX 3 - OT||J. Lehtinen|
|Dec 06 '06||PHX 0 at DAL 3||S. Zubov|
|Nov 09 '06||DAL 1 at PHX 0||B. Morrow|
|Oct 21 '06||DAL 4 at PHX 0||M. Ribeiro|