STARS (25-21-9) at COYOTES (26-19-10)
TV: FS-SW, FS-A PLUS
Last 10: Dallas 5-3-2; Phoenix 5-4-1
Season series: It's the first of three games between the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes. They split four games last season with each team winning twice at home; three of the four games were one-goal affairs.
Big story: The Coyotes and Stars are among the teams in a battle for one of the wild-card spots in the Western Conference. They'll meet twice in the next four days.
The Coyotes enter coming off one of their biggest wins of the season, a 3-1 defeat of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday; however, they've rotated wins and losses in their previous six games.
The Stars also are coming off a big win, a 2-0 shutout of the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. However, that snapped a two-game winless skid to close a five-game homestand.
Stars: Since a six-game losing streak to open the 2014 portion of their schedule the Stars have gone 5-3-2 to again become a factor in the chase for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The latest move up the ladder was the 2-0 win at the Ducks on Saturday. It was the first time the Ducks had been shut out at home since Feb. 29, 2012.
Eakin has 12 goals and 15 assists in 55 games and made a strong individual effort to set up the game's first goal early in the second period, driving to the net to create a scoring chance that Trevor Daley finished. That came after he sat out most of the first period after being cut in the face when he was hit by a puck. He also was a plus-2 and skated eight of his 12 even-strength shifts matched against the Ducks' two best offensive forwards, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
"He's really smart when it comes to defending, in staying above the puck and getting on the right side of somebody," Ruff told the Stars' website. "Some of that stuff is hard to teach and I think he's really grabbed a hold of that responsibility. He's played against some tough personnel down low this year and really of late from [Sidney] Crosby to Getzlaf and Perry to you name it and has done an excellent job for us."
Coyotes: Mike Smith remains the No. 1 option in goal for the Coyotes even if he had to watch Thomas Greiss start back-to-back games last week. After five days of practice, he responded Saturday with 23 saves in the win against the Penguins.
"It's the exact response we were hoping for," coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic. "He jumped in practice and got to work."
Smith told the Arizona Republic that the extended practice time with goalie coach Sean Burke was just what he needed after allowing 15 goals in his four previous games. He said he worked on a "less is more" approach. That meant focusing on his positioning, because if he's in the right spot it makes every save look easier.
"When you do that it makes the team more confident in you and they play a more confident game too," Smith said. "It starts with me and then carries over into the rest of the game."
Who's hot: Stars center Tyler Seguin has three goals and six assists during his five-game point streak. … Coyotes center Antoine Vermette has seven goals and three assists during his streak of seven games with at least a point.
Injury report: Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas (leg) is out. … The Coyotes have no reported injuries.
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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