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Coyotes-Stars Preview

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Coyotes-Stars Preview

GAME: Phoenix Coyotes (17-16-2) at Dallas Stars (22-9-1).

TIME: Friday, 8:30 p.m. EST.

The surging Dallas Stars will shoot for their eighth win in 10 games when they host the Phoenix Coyotes at the American Airlines Center.

The Stars boast one of the best road records in the league (12-4-0), and finished a season-high six-game trip 4-2 after rallying for a 5-3 win at Columbus on Wednesday.

"We talked about the importance of this game," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "Our trip would have ended 3-3 or 4-2. These are points that we desperately needed and I think our guys recognized that in the third period."

Dallas, tied for first place with Los Angeles in the Pacific Division, will play four of its next five games at home. They have won three straight and seven of their last eight in Dallas, with the lone loss coming in a 4-1 defeat to Phoenix on Nov. 25.

The Stars are averaging 3.7 goals per game at home this season.

Dallas came out flat in the first period Wednesday, getting outshot 12-2 while killing off seven penalties. However, the Stars bounced back with three goals in the third period, scoring on three of their first five shots in a span of 3:59.

"The penalty-kill unit did a great job, and the guys who aren't doing penalty kill did a great job because they're sitting there for about 13 minutes and not getting out there," said center Stu Barnes, who scored the last two goals for the Stars.

"When we did get back to 5-on-5, we did play well. That's huge, to have effort like that all the way through."

Philippe Boucher, who had missed six games with a broken finger, also had two goals and an assist for Dallas, which is 29-20-8-0 all-time at home against Phoenix.

Mike Modano added a goal and an assist to extend his points streak to 10 games (four goals, 10 assists). Dallas goaltender Johan Hedberg stopped 23 shots in place of Marty Turco, who was selected for the Canadian Olympic team Wednesday.

Stars forwards Jere Lehtinen, Niko Kapanen and Antti Miettinen were also selected Thursday to play for Finland at the Olympics, which begin Feb. 15 in Turin, Italy.

Phoenix halted a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. Mike Comrie scored a power-play goal with 17:08 remaining to lift the Coyotes, who won for the first time since coach Wayne Gretzky took an indefinite leave of absence on Dec. 17 to be with his ailing mother, who died Monday.

Gretzky, executive director of Canada's Olympic team, wasn't in Vancouver when the team was announced Wednesday, but will resume his duties with the team in January, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said.

Jamie Lundmark also scored Thursday to help interim coach Rick Tocchet improve to 1-2 in Gretzky's absence.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 22): Coyotes - 36 points, 4th place, 9 PB, Pacific Division. Stars - 45 points, 1st place (tied), Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Comrie, 13 goals; Nagy, 23 assists and 35 points; Sean O'Donnell, 69 PIM. Stars - Lehtinen, 19 goals; Modano, 22 assists and 33 points; Steve Ott, 75 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 22): Coyotes - Power play: 19 percent (42 for 226), tied for 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.9 percent (174 for 215), tied for 21st. Stars - Power play: 16.5 percent (35 for 212), tied for 17th. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (174 for 207), 6th.

GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (15-10-0, 2 SO, 2.38 GAA); Brian Boucher (0-1-0, 3.58). Stars - Turco (18-8-1, 2, 2.51); Hedberg (4-1-0, 3.72).

SEASON SERIES: Stars, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 25; Coyotes, 4-1. At Dallas, Comrie, Shane Doan and Paul Mara had power-play goals as the Coyotes snapped the Stars' five-game winning streak.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 7-9-1 on the road; Stars - 10-5-1 at home.


Associated Press
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