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by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes
Dallas at Phoenix
Stars-Coyotes Preview

GAME: Dallas Stars (37-15-3) at Phoenix Coyotes (27-27-3).

TIME: Thursday, 9 p.m. EST.

The Phoenix Coyotes look to put aside distractions and avoid a third straight loss when they host the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars.

The Coyotes have lost four of their past five games - all at home - and learned Tuesday that assistant coach Rick Tocchet has been implicated as the financier in a nationwide sports betting ring that involves several NHL players and actress Janet Jones, wife of Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky.

The New Jersey-based ring, dubbed "Operation Slapshot" by the state's authorities, reportedly involved more than 1,000 wagers, exceeding $1.7 million, on professional and college sports, mostly football and basketball.

Investigators said no bets were placed on hockey. Tocchet said Tuesday it was a football-related matter and that he couldn't comment further. He met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday.

"The sad thing about this whole scenario is that Rick is a wonderful person and a great guy, so I hope everything works out in his favor," Gretzky said after his team's 3-1 loss to Chicago on Tuesday night. "It's hard because I love the guy. He's a great guy, you know. I just hope it all works out for him."

The accusations have overshadowed the poor play of the Coyotes, 2-3-1 thus far during a stretch of 10 straight home games. Phoenix plays San Jose on Sunday, then has two home contests after the Olympic break.

"It's disappointing," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "You have a chance at home to make a stand and we haven't done that. We have had six games at home and have not taken care of business. When you do that, it's really frustrating."

Dallas rebounded to beat Nashville 4-2 on Monday, two days after its six-game win streak was snapped in a 4-3 overtime loss to St. Louis.

Bill Guerin scored with 0.9 seconds left in the second period to put the Stars up 2-1 Monday. The goal ended an 18-game drought for Guerin, who has only three goals in 35 games and nine this season. The 14-year veteran led Dallas with 34 goals and 69 points in 2003-04.

"When he plays like that, he's a dangerous player," said Stu Barnes, whose goal earlier in the second period tied the game. "We know what kind of scorer he is, but he's been doing a lot of other things to help the club."

Guerin's goal came on the power play for the Stars, who were just 1-for-11 with the man advantage. The 11 chances were the most for Dallas since Nov. 26, also against the Predators, when it converted 2-of-12 opportunities.

STANDINGS (through Feb. 7): Stars - 77 points, 1st place, Pacific Division. Coyotes - 57 points, 4th place, 20 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Stars - Jere Lehtinen, 26 goals; Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov, 34 assists; Modano, 52 points; Brenden Morrow, 110 PIM. Coyotes - Mike Comrie, 19 goals; Ladislav Nagy, 41 assists and 56 points; Sean O'Donnell, 114 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 7): Stars - Power play: 15.6 percent (54 for 346), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.0 percent (284 for 338), 11th. Coyotes - Power play: 17.9 percent (69 for 385), 14th. Penalty killing: 81.4 percent (293 for 360), 18th.

GOALTENDERS: Stars - Marty Turco (29-13-3, 3 SO, 2.49 GAA); Johan Hedberg (8-2-0, 2.71). Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (22-15-1, 2, 2.82); Philippe Sauve (3-4-0, 3.41).

SEASON SERIES: Stars, 3-2.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 23; Stars, 4-1. At Dallas, the Stars scored four straight after falling behind to snap a season-high three-game losing streak.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Stars - 17-5-2 on the road; Coyotes - 15-13-2 at home.

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