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Hot goalies clash as Stars visit Sabres

by Matthew Mankiewich

STARS (29-24-12) at SABRES (35-20-9)

Last 10 -- Dallas 5-4-1, Buffalo 3-5-2

Season series -- It's the only meeting of the season for these two teams. The Sabres have won the last four games, three in regulation. The most recent matchup, on Jan. 15, 2009, was Buffalo's non-regulation win, a 5-4 shootout victory in Dallas in which the Sabres came back from a 3-0 deficit in the second period and dug out of a 4-2 hole with goals 15 seconds apart in the third.

Team scope

Stars -- Marty Turco was in goal for Dallas' last four losses to the Sabres, but when teams meet only once a year, it's hard to gauge much of a trend. What matters in any goalie's case is how he's been playing lately, and Turco's last outing was truly amazing on Monday, turning back 49 shots and stopping four more in the shootout for 4-3 victory in Washington in a game that the Stars had no business winning.

"On some nights," Brad Richards told the Dallas Morning News, "it should just be called 'goalie' and not hockey."

This comes after being the subject of trade rumors for several weeks and getting pulled in the second period last Thursday, giving up four goals in a 6-1 home loss. Things weren't going much better for the team since the Olympic break, getting outscored 17-5 in their first three games and entering the third period of Monday's game down 2-0 and outshot 42-16. Richards and Trevor Daley came through with power-play goals and James Neal put the Stars ahead for a little while until Alex Ovechkin tied it.

Sabres -- Ryan Miller has become a media star since his Olympic performance for Team USA and he's carried that over on the ice as well, beating the Rangers 2-1 in overtime Sunday while stopping 35 shots. He lingered around Manhattan on Monday making the TV and radio rounds, joining Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today Show" and Jim Rome Tuesday afternoon.

Great for the game as Miller's star appeal is right now, the win in the Garden was a big turnaround for the Sabres on the road, snapping an 0-6-2 slide dating back to Jan. 18 and opening up a two-point lead over Ottawa in the Northeast Division going into Tuesday's action. Before that, they were able to grind out a 3-2 overtime win over Philadelphia on Friday much the same way.

"That seems to be the difference between playoff teams and teams that don't make it," Miller said in the Buffalo News. "The prior two seasons, we weren't coming back to win these games, weren't hanging in long enough. The last two games weren't the prettiest, the type of game where we didn't have the kind of lead you would hope for but you grind it out and you can get two points."

Who's hot -- Miller, for starters is 2-1-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average since returning from the break, while Richards had a goal and an assist Monday for the Stars, giving him 12 points in his last 10 games.

Injury report -- Stars center Brian Sutherby (shoulder) is still on IR. … Sabres forward Drew Stafford injured his groin Friday against the Flyers and sat out the game in New York. Officially, he's questionable, but the injury is believed to be severe, which means recent call-up Mark Mancari will be getting more playing time. Center Paul Gaustad (upper body) was expected to be out at least a week as of last Wednesday and remains doubtful.

Stat pack -- Miller is 7-3-1 with a 2.14 GAA in his last 11 home starts and a 2.41 GAA in his two starts opposite Turco. Offensively, the Sabres are still looking for some firepower, having scored three or fewer goals in their last 10 games. Top goal-scorer Thomas Vanek has two tallies in that span and Tim Connolly only one.

Puck drop -- "Hopefully this group is good and smart enough to realize how big this was, to come back like that against this team that we can use it so now we can not only play with anybody, but we can win." -- Turco on the Stars' win in Washington.

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