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Injuries and losses on a three-game road trip have resulted in the Dallas Stars' first slump in quite a while.
Looking to avoid their longest losing streak in nearly three years, the banged-up Stars (16-9-0) begin a key stretch of home games on Saturday against the Minnesota Wild at American Airlines Center.
Dallas has not dropped four in a row since a five-game slide from Nov. 30-Dec. 10, 2003, when it was shut out twice and limited to one goal in each of the other three games. This contest is the first of five games in an eight-day span for the Stars.
"This is an important stretch of games for us in a short amount of time," Stars coach Dave Tippett told the team's official website, dallasstars.com. "We play some divisional games with Phoenix twice and San Jose, as well as a couple of conference games with Minnesota, Edmonton and Columbus. Every one of them is important."
The Stars have won three straight at home and are 8-2-0 there this season. They've also scored 11 of their 31 goals at home on the power play, including four during their last contest there, a 5-4 win over Los Angeles on Nov. 24.
After opening their road swing with 2-1 losses to Detroit and Chicago, Dallas scored two late third-period goals but fell to Washington 4-3 on Thursday. Stu Barnes scored at 16:39 to draw the Stars within 4-2 and Jussi Jokinen added his second of the game 78 seconds later.
"We've got to be better at playing complete games. When that puck drops, make sure we play the way we want to play for the complete 60 minutes," said Barnes, who played his 1,000th career game.
Injuries have been a big reason for Dallas' slump. Captain Brenden Morrow missed all three games of the road trip with a groin injury and is day-to-day.
"I can still feel (the injury) and the last thing I want to do is come back too early," Morrow told the Stars' website Friday. "We'll probably err on the side of caution."
Morrow has just eight goals this season, but his three game-winners are tied for the team lead with former captain Mike Modano.
Right wing Antti Miettinen left the loss to the Capitals with a lower body injury and is day-to-day, as is defenseman Trevor Daley, who has missed the last three games with a concussion. Center Steve Ott has been out since the end of October with a broken ankle, and is not expected back until late this month.
"We've got a little adversity right now with some injuries and it's time for our depth to show up and perform and make a difference," Morrow said on the website.
Injuries also have left Minnesota (13-11-1) slumping after a record-setting 6-0 start to the season.
Marian Gaborik - the best player in the Wild's seven-year history - has been out since Oct. 20 with a groin injury, and coach Jacques Lemaire has already said the left wing will not play this contest.
Right wing Pavol Demitra, acquired from Los Angeles in an offseason trade to provide more scoring to a defensive-minded team, has been sidelined for five straight games with a concussion and remains day-to-day. Defenseman Kurtis Foster missed Friday's 3-0 loss to Detroit after being hit in the throat with the puck while sitting on the bench during a loss earlier in the week to San Jose.
"We need these guys back," Lemaire said. "It seems that the pressure is on (Brian) Rolston to score all the time."
Rolston has a team-high 12 goals, but scored just three in November as Minnesota went 4-8-1.
Minnesota has lost its last four visits to Dallas.