For the first time since early February, the Dallas Stars
(39-28-5, 83 points) have everyone healthy with veteran winger Radek Dvorak
and defenseman Sheldon Souray
returning to the ice for tonight's game with the Phoenix Coyotes
(36-26-11, 83 points), a contest at American Airlines Center for the lead in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference.
This is the same Phoenix team that Dallas faced on Feb. 4 at the same venue and it was the Coyotes who came away with a big 4-1 win. So it's safe to say Stars first-year coach Glen Gulutzan knows what to expect in the final regular-season meeting between these clubs.
"They know who they are. They know how to play to win. They know how to play to get points and they're comfortable in their own skin," Gulutzan said.
Dallas heads into tonight's contest on a two-game losing streak, having most recently lost to Chicago 4-1 on Friday. Last Wednesday, the Stars saw their 11-game point streak end at the hands of the Jets with a 5-2 loss in Winnipeg.
Despite those considerable setbacks, Gulutzan and his players aren't about to panic, especially since counting tonight, they have exactly 10 games remaining.
"Our guys are ready. We're refocused here," he said. "We're not worked up. We know there's a task at hand and we're focused on these last 10."
Dvorak will return to Dallas' third line after missing the last three games with a lower- body injury while Souray will be back in the Stars' top defensive pairing alongside fellow veteran Stephane Robidas
after missing four games of his own with a similar injury.
"I feel good. Excited to come back in and be a part of what the guys are doing here and what we're trying to accomplish," Souray said. "It's always a lot more fun to step into the lineup when the games are so meaningful, just get back in it and get back to work."
Gulutzan will again start No. 1 netminder Kari Lehtonen
on Tuesday. And while the Finnish-born goaltender figures to see the bulk of the action the rest of the way, rookie backup Richard Bachman
figures to get at least one more start between the pipes for Dallas.
"No, we certainly have another back-to-back in a tough road swing, so we'll certainly play that by ear. There's probably one more game left on the docket for Bacher. We're not looking at this in any different way than we have the rest of the season," Gulutzan said. "We like the positioning we're in and we like what we've done after 72 games, so we're just going to continue these next 10 games the same way."