BLUE JACKETS (11-6-2) at STARS (9-5-6)
Last 10 --
Blue Jackets 5-3-2; Stars 5-3-2.
Season series --
The teams are meeting for the first time. Columbus will be back at the American Airlines Center on Dec. 23, while the Stars visit Nationwide Arena on Jan. 10 and Feb. 4. Dallas went 3-0-1 against the Jackets last season; three of the four games went to overtime or a shootout.
Big story --
One team is coming home from a road trip, the other just starting one. Dallas ended a grueling four-game trip on a positive note, earning a split with a 3-1 victory at Detroit on Wednesday. The Blue Jackets begin their longest trip, a five-gamer that will also see them go to Nashville, New York, Montreal and Ottawa. The Jackets are 5-4-0 on the road.
Blue Jackets --
The biggest news in Columbus is who won't
be with the Jackets in Dallas. Russian teenager Nikita Filatov, Columbus' first-round pick (No. 6) in the 2008 Entry Draft, was loaned to CSKA of the Kontinental Hockey League for the rest of the season.
Filatov, 19, played in 13 games with the Blue Jackets this season, scoring 2 goals with 8 PIM and an even plus/minus rating. He has tallied 6-0-6 and 8 PIM in 21 NHL games over the past two seasons.
"Nikita is a top prospect in our organization, and we believe it is in the best interest of his development to play more and in all situations in the KHL," GM Scott Howson said. "We have agreed to his request to be assigned to CSKA and this should afford him the opportunity to continue to work and develop his game in his hometown of Moscow."
One of the Stars' problems last season was the lack of an effective backup from Marty Turco, who struggled down the stretch as the Stars fell out of the playoff race. GM Joe Nieuwendyk opted for veteran help during the summer when he signed Alex Auld. So far, so good -- Auld has given the Stars reliable goaltending on Turco's nights off, including a 31-save performance in Wednesday's win at Detroit.
"I feel like I've played pretty well this year, although the numbers might not really show it," Auld said after improving to 3-2-2. "I've felt comfortable and confident in net and obviously getting results like this go a long way.
Who's hot --
Dallas' Loui Eriksson
extended his points streak to six games with an insurance goal on Wednesday. James Neal has 8 goals and 15 points in the last 10 games he's played (he missed two with a groin injury, so it's not an official streak). … Columbus backup goaltender Mathieu Garon may earn some more playing time after allowing two goals in each of the Jackets' last two games -- both shootout victories at home.
Injury report --
Dallas forwards Fabian Brunnstrom (shoulder) and Brian Sutherby (groin) both sat out against Detroit. … Columbus center Andrew Murray is on IR and forward Raffi Torres will miss at least another week after taking a puck in the face last Wednesday.
Stat pack --
Dallas is 6-for-25 on the power play in its last six games and has killed off the opposition's last 17 man advantages. … Columbus has gone past regulation in five of its last eight games, winning three of them.
Puck drop --
The first game home after a road trip is a tough one for any team, and the Stars are coming off an emotional win at Detroit on Wednesday. They'll have a rested Turco back in goal, and look much improved from the team that missed the playoffs last spring. Columbus rebounded after a 9-1 mauling by Detroit last week, but the Jackets will face a big test over the next 10 days.