Mental mistakes have caused the Dallas Stars to suffer late-game meltdowns while losing their last two games. Having Mike Modano finally break a record he has been chasing might help the Stars avoid any more such problems.
Modano tries again to become the all-time points leader among American-born players when the Stars (5-5-2) host the Phoenix Coyotes (4-6-0) on Friday night.
Modano has 1,231 points, one shy of Hall of Fame defenseman Phil Housley, but he's off to a slow start this season that has prolonged the chase. Modano's five-point total this season is the worst 12-game start of his 18-season career, and that's kept the focus on the Dallas forward's push for the record.
"That can't get over soon enough," coach Dave Tippett told the Stars' official Web site. "That will help our team to get it over with, that's for sure."
Making matters worse, Modano was initially awarded an assist Wednesday night on Sergei Zubov's power-play goal that gave Dallas a 4-3 lead with 9:53 left against Chicago, but the assist was taken away by official scorers after the game - a decision Modano agreed with.
"Someone screwed up. I wasn't even near that," Modano said. "It's unfortunate, another list of things that have happened lately that have been surrounded by me. It kind of caps up the whole month, so I'm glad it's over."
Chicago's Jason Williams went on to sink the Stars, scoring twice in the final 7:11 - including the winner with 21 seconds left - as the Blackhawks won at the American Airlines Center for the first time since March 7, 2001.
On Monday, the Stars gave up three unanswered third-period goals in a 2:23 span and fell 4-2 at home to San Jose. Dallas has dropped three of its last four games.
"It doesn't really matter when you lose," Stars center Mike Ribeiro said. "It's still good that we're still producing, still creating chances, but the bottom line is you have to win these games."
The Stars' 12 points in October match the 1995-96 and 2003-04 seasons for the fewest in that month since the franchise relocated from Minnesota in 1993-94.
History suggests Modano has a good chance of surpassing Housley's mark, and the Stars have an excellent shot of getting back in the win column, on Thursday night. Modano's 88 points in 81 games versus the Coyotes are his highest total against any team, and Dallas is 11-2-0 in its last 13 matchups with Phoenix, outscoring it 46-28 during that span.
The Stars, though, will be facing a Coyotes club that has won three straight on the road. Phoenix rallied past St. Louis with a strong third period Tuesday, winning on Fredrik Sjostrom's wraparound with 2:58 to go.
Phoenix knocked off Stanley Cup champion Anaheim and Nashville, a 51-win team last season, in its previous two road contests.
"Maybe we'll stay at a hotel Saturday when we get home," said Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky, whose team is 1-5 at home and 3-1 away from Jobing.com Arena.
Despite their strong work on the road, the Coyotes struggle to generate offense wherever they play. Phoenix's 22 goals are the fewest in the Western Conference, and the Coyotes are 0-for-18 on the power play in its last four games to fall to 4-for-46 this season.
Ribeiro has totaled four goals and seven assists during a seven-game point streak, including a goal in each of the last three games. He has seven goals and 12 assists in 13 games against Phoenix, including five goals and six assists in the last four meetings.
Dallas has scored in the first period in nine straight games.