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It took the Dallas Stars almost two full months to win back-to-back contests, but stringing together three straight victories might be a little easier.
The Stars pursue that goal and their eighth consecutive victory over the struggling Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday without the services of suspended winger Sean Avery for the second straight night.
Dallas (9-11-4) sits last in the Pacific Division and ranks near the bottom of the NHL with 22 points, due in part to a defense that has allowed a Western Conference-worst 87 goals. Usually reliable veteran Marty Turco has compiled a lofty 3.48 goals-against average in starting 22 of his team's 24 games.
Turco, though, helped Dallas turn in its best defensive performance in almost six weeks on Tuesday in a 3-1 victory at Calgary. It was only the second time this season that the Stars held an opponent under two goals and the first since a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Oct. 20.
Turco, who yielded 15 goals in his previous four outings, made a season-high 36 saves in his 13th straight start for Dallas, which looks to win three in a row for the first time since a four-game run Feb. 22-28.
"You have to really appreciate the effort and focus of this club with all that's gone on, never mind (Tuesday's) unfortunate incident shining on our club," Turco said. "The way we did play, and focus, and played our game plan better than we have in a long time."
Turco made a quick reference to Avery's off-ice controversy. Just hours before Tuesday's game, the league suspended the noted agitator indefinitely for conduct "detrimental to the league or game of hockey" after making crass pre-game comments regarding Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who is dating one of Avery's ex-girlfriends.
Avery, who signed a four-year, $15.5 million deal with Dallas in July, had never been reprimanded by the NHL. The left wing, who leads the Stars with 77 penalty minutes, is expected to meet with commissioner Gary Bettman before his punishment is settled, but will miss Wednesday's game.
With Avery out of the picture for a while, Turco looks to continue his strong play against the Oilers. He is 16-4-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average lifetime versus Edmonton, allowing 14 goals on 173 shots in leading the Stars to wins in the last seven meetings.
Turco has also compiled a 1.95 GAA and a .932 save percentage during a personal six-game win streak at Edmonton. Dallas has won seven in a row there since a loss on Jan. 20, 2004.
Edmonton (10-11-2) enters December having lost six of eight (2-5-1) following Sunday's 4-3 defeat at Dallas in which Mike Modano scored the decisive goal - his 73rd career point versus the Oilers - with 2:21 left in the third period.
Kyle Brodziak scored twice and defenseman Sheldon Souray had three assists for the Oilers, who allowed two power-play goals and have yielded 11 short-handed tallies in 38 chances over their last eight contests.
"It was missed execution on a pretty elementary part of our penalty kill," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "The game was there for us. It was ripe for opportunity."
Souray leads Edmonton with eight goals and is second with 19 points, collecting three goals and four assists during a five-game point streak.
Ales Hemsky has 18 of his team-leading 24 points over his last 15 contests. He has two goals and seven assists in his last 11 contests against the Stars.