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Blue Jackets Host Stars for First Time this Season

by Staff Writer / Columbus Blue Jackets

With a goal-scoring milestone in sight, Mike Modano is starting to heat up while the rest of the Dallas Stars are ice-cold.

Modano looks to continue his recent scoring surge - and possibly reach the 500-goal plateau - while the Stars try to avoid extending their losing streak to five games when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night at Nationwide Arena.

Modano, the Stars' all-time scoring leader, recorded his second goal in three games and the 498th of his career Thursday night in a 5-3 loss to St. Louis. The marker also moved Modano into a tie for 39th place all-time with Glenn Anderson.

The last active player from the Minnesota North Stars and a Michigan native, Modano is second all-time in goals by American-born players trailing only the 502 scored by Hall of Famer Joe Mullen. Should Modano score his 500th goal this season, he would become the fifth player to do so in 2006-07 joining Toronto's Mats Sundin, Anaheim's Teemu Selanne, Chicago's Peter Bondra and Pittsburgh's Mark Recchi.

The Stars, though, are in danger of losing five in a row for the first time since Nov. 30-Dec. 10, 2003, when they managed a total of just three goals. Dallas (38-23-5) has only six goals in its current skid, which included a 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus last Friday at home.

After winning 17 of the first 19 matchups with the Blue Jackets, the Stars are 0-1-2 in their last three.

Stars goaltender Mike Smith stopped 24 of 28 shots Thursday, prompting coach Dave Tippett to say "he was just all right." That means All-Star Marty Turco almost certainly will be back in goal for this game, needing one victory for his fourth straight 30-win season.

Turco was 9-0-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average in his career against the Blue Jackets coming into this season, during which he's 0-1-1 with a 2.45 GAA.

The Blue Jackets (27-33-9), who will be looking for their fourth win in a row, also will be looking for another strong performance from David Vyborny. He assisted on Columbus first tally and scored his second goal 4:38 into overtime of a 3-2 win over Los Angeles on Wednesday.

"Vyborny is just one of those guys who is going to make the right play 90 percent of the time," said Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team is 22-20-5 after taking over for the fired Gerard Gallant 20 games into the season. "He's one of the most accountable players in the league."

Vyborny leads Columbus with 42 assists and 58 points.

Columbus' current surge is similar to one late last season. The Blue Jackets went on a 9-3-1 run to close the 2005-06 season, but still failed to make the postseason despite setting franchise records for wins (35), goals scored (223) and points (74).

If Columbus is to continue a similar run, it will have to do so without four key players and possibly a fifth. Before Wednesday's game, general manager Doug MacLean said goaltender Pascal Leclaire(knee), defensemen Duvie Westcott (concussion) and Bryan Berard (back) and center Dan Fritsche(wrist) would miss the remainder of the season.

MacLean also said team captain Adam Foote, who suffered a high ankle sprain early in Friday's win over Dallas, also could be sidelined for the season.


- Associated Press

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