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Ducks aim for third straight win against Stars

by Frank Mentesana
STARS (23-16-1) at DUCKS (12-22-6)


Last 10: Dallas 5-5-0; Anaheim 3-6-1.

Season series: Tuesday's matchup is the third of six meetings between these Pacific Division rivals. Dallas has posted a two-goal victory in each of the first two games -- one at home and one on the road. On Oct. 21 in Anaheim, Loui Eriksson notched two goals and an assist, leading the Stars to a 3-1 win. On Dec. 19 at the American Airlines Center, the Ducks rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game at 3-3 after 40 minutes, but third-period goals by Michael Ryder and Eric Nystrom gave Dallas a 5-3 victory.
Big Story: Both teams come in riding two-game winning streaks. The Ducks close out a six-game homestand with a chance to avoid a losing record in that stretch, despite dropping the first three games of the homestand. On the opposite bench, Dallas has won three of four to climb into the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Stars: For all the attention given to Dallas' offense -- Mike Ribeiro's heroic return from multiple injuries to help Dallas seal a 4-1 win against Edmonton Saturday and Jamie Benn's blazing hot streak -- the defense has dictated the Stars' success this season. After allowing two goals only three times during an 11-3-0 start, Dallas conceded more than two goals 16 times since then. However, in their two straight wins the Stars have allowed only two goals total, and the special teams have killed all five penalties, signaling a return to defensive form for the Stars.

"I thought defensively, we were a little bit better today over the Nashville game (on Thursday) and that's the way we need to trend, that's what this team has to do," coach Glen Gulutzan said after Saturday's victory.

Ducks: The Ducks have won back-to-back games for the first time since the second week of the season, when they raced out to a 4-1-0 start. Anaheim has exploded for 11 goals in defeats of the New York Islanders and Columbus, with Corey Perry tallying his fourth career hat trick in Sunday's 7-4 victory against the Blue Jackets. Teemu Selanne added a pair of goals, bringing his career total to 651.

While the Ducks' offense has come alive in consecutive victories, Perry knows there is still much work to be done.

"Where we are is unacceptable," said Perry of his team's current standing at 14th in the West, 17 points behind Dallas. "... We've had two great games, but we have to keep pushing and doing the right things."

Sunday's win left the Ducks with a major concern, as starting goaltender Jonas Hiller left the game late in the first period with a lower-body injury. With backup goalie Dan Ellis also injured, 26-year-old Iiro Tarkki was forced into his first NHL game just hours after flying cross-country from Syracuse, New York -- where he served as backup for an AHL game on Saturday night. Tarkki allowed a goal on the first shot he faced, but settled in after that and stopped seven of 10 shots overall to earn his first NHL win. 

Who's Hot: Perhaps spurred by his brother Jordie’s call-up, Stars leading scorer Jamie Benn (13 goals, 28 assists, 41 points) has been on a week-long tear. Benn, named the NHL's First Star on Monday, has four straight multi-point games, including two goals in the win over Edmonton.

Injury Report: Ribeiro had an MRI on his injured right knee on Monday and will miss at least Tuesday's game in Anaheim. After sitting out the last six weeks, defenseman Sheldon Souray (ankle) is "60-40" to make his return on Tuesday, according to Gulutzan. The Dallas coach also said that goalie Kari Lehtonen should be fine to play after not starting Saturday's game due to the flu. However, Mark Fistric seems to have caught the flu bug, as he did not practice on Monday and is questionable for Tuesday's game. Forward Philip Larsen has missed the last three games with concussion-like symptoms, while forward Tomas Vincour (knee) remains on Injured Reserve. … After the win against Columbus, Boudreau categorized Hiller as day-to-day. Early that afternoon, the Ducks placed Ellis and forward George Parros on IR, each suffering from a strained groin. Ellis will be out at least four weeks, while Parros is day-to-day. Devante Smith-Pelly (fractured left foot) and Matt Smaby (right thumb surgery) remain on IR for the Ducks.

Stat Pack: The Stars have dominated this series dating back to last season, going 4-0-2 over the last six. Both possible Dallas goalies -- Lehtonen and rookie Richard Bachman -- have wins against Anaheim this year, with the netminders making 35 and 25 saves, respectively.

Puck Drop: If Ribeiro didn't prove his toughness in Thursday's game in Nashville, then he definitely did so against the Oilers. Ribeiro took a puck to the face during the Stars' 4-1 win over the Predators, costing him a couple of teeth and requiring several stitches. The center, who already had two goals when he was struck in the mouth, returned to the ice after getting treatment and finished the game.

"This morning my mouth was really sore," Ribeiro said. "I didn't take anything to help it. I don't like to take (pain-killers), I just wanted to come play and once you skate and once you're out there, you don't feel the pain. I knew that and I'm fine. It's sore a little bit, but that's part of the game."

Ribeiro sustained another injury in Thursday's game against Edmonton, when he endured a knee-on-knee collision early in the second period. He was soon back on the ice, and notched an insurance goal and as well as an empty-netter to seal the win.

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