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A front-office shakeup has resulted in the Dallas Stars playing their best hockey of the season at home. The challenge is continuing that success as they embark on their longest road trip this season.
Dallas (11-7-4) goes for its fifth win in a row on Sunday when it meets the New York Rangers (13-8-2) at Madison Square Garden.
Coming off a third straight exit in the opening round of the playoffs and off to a sluggish start this season, Dallas fired general manager Doug Armstrong on Nov. 13 after five years, and replaced him with Stanley Cup hero Brett Hull and assistant general manager Les Jackson on an interim basis. The next day, former Texas Rangers president Jeff Cogen joined the Stars in the same capacity, replacing Jim Lites.
Stars owner Tom Hicks chose to keep coach Dave Tippett behind the bench for now, and the team has responded on both ends of the ice. Dallas has scored 14 goals during its winning streak after totaling 52 in its first 18 contests. On defense, the Stars have given up just three goals during their streak, compared to 54 during a 7-7-4 start.
Prior to this six-game road trip in which they will play all Atlantic Division clubs and improving Columbus, the Stars capped a 4-0-1 homestand with a 3-1 win over Toronto on Friday. Mike Ribeiro and Antti Miettinen scored second-period goals to erase an early deficit and Marty Turco made 18 saves.
"It was a big homestand for us," Dallas captain Brenden Morrow told the Stars' official Web site. "We made up ground and got ourselves set up for a big road trip. We've found our identity again, what we do best.
"It's a lot of teams we don't play often. But we're looking forward to taking it on the road and following up on what we did on the homestand."
A key to the Stars continuing their success will depend on Turco, who's allowed 11 goals while losing his last two road games. He's made only two career starts at MSG, going 1-1-0 with a 1.51 goals-against average.
The Rangers return home after a 3-2 shootout loss to Florida on Friday. Chris Drury registered his first two-goal game for New York, but Stephen Valiquette - making just his second start this season in place of Henrik Lundqvist - gave up the lone shootout goal to Olli Jokinen after a 33-save effort.
Lundqvist, though, will be back in net Sunday as he tries to continue an excellent month. In 10 November starts, Lundqvist has gone 8-2-0 with a 1.67 GAA and two shutouts - both at home. He made 43 saves in a 5-2 win on Dec. 14 at Dallas, but has never faced the Stars in New York.
Martin Straka returned Friday for New York after missing 15 games with a broken finger, but didn't figure in the scoring. His return may help linemate and fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr end his recent slump.
Jagr has failed to record a point in his last five games, but still leads New York with 13 assists and 17 points. Jagr also has averaged nearly a point per game in his career against the Stars franchise, notching 12 goals and 12 assists in 25 games.
This is Dallas' first visit to MSG since a 3-0 loss on Nov. 4, 2003.