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Hurricanes pursue rare road victory over Stars

by Matthew Mankiewich /
HURRICANES (11-12-3) at STARS (16-9-2)

TV -- FS-CR (HD), FS-SW (HD)

Last 10 --
Carolina 3-4-3; Dallas 6-2-2

Season series -- It's the second of an inter-conference double-dip, the first one occurring last Sunday, a 4-1 Dallas win at RBC Center. They did the same thing last season and the home team took each game.

Big story -- The Hurricanes are tasked with forcing another season split by winning in Dallas, something they haven't done in nine visits, and where the Stars haven't had a regulation loss in nine games. The Stars have dropped two straight on the road, but the last time the Hurricanes' franchise won in Big D, they were still the Hartford Whalers.

Team scope:

Hurricanes -- Ryan Carter and Troy Bodie were not acquired by the Hurricanes for their familiarity with the Western Conference. But since their arrival, the Canes have played the Stars and Avalanche, plus two bouts with the Predators. Now they have a return engagement with the Stars and a back-to-back with the Blues, part of a five-game road swing that began with Sunday's 5-2 loss in Nashville. Pointing that out got a smile out of Bodie.

"With these teams, I already know the scouting report," he told the Charlotte News and Observer.

The big bruisers have settled in well on the fourth line. Not so settled is the top line led by Eric Staal. Coach Paul Maurice has employed different combinations of wingers with the All-Star center, mostly by design. Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov drew duty with Staal during practice Tuesday.

"You've got a big, strong man like Eric Staal that's going to see different kinds of defense -- either two big guys or somebody that can really move the puck," Maurice told the team's official website. "I don't know if we've got another guy that can run 82 games with him. He battles differently and can handle more than most other guys can."

Stars -- A short road hop proved frustrating to the Stars, who saw a six-game winning streak turn into a two-game slide, blowing a third-period lead in a 3-2 shootout loss at Columbus, then seeing a late comeback from three goals down get stalled by a Stephane Robidas penalty, resulting in an empty-netter and a 5-3 loss in Chicago on Wednesday.

"We've got to stay out of the box," James Neal said. "We did a great job of battling back, but it's a tough one. We get a call late like that, and we're making a push to pull the goalie and get an extra man out there."

Like the Hurricanes' gauntlet of Western teams, the Stars are in a tough stretch, playing six of eight on the road, including the two recent losses. They go to Phoenix and San Jose, come home for San Jose, then shoot back out to Columbus and Detroit.

Who's hot --
Neal helped make things interesting in Chicago with a goal and an assist, extending his point streak to five games. Brad Richards and Brandon Segal have four-game streaks. For Segal, it's a career high.

Injury report --
Stars forward Krys Barch (foot) is still on IR. Defenseman Mark Fistric (groin) is off IR but was assigned to the Texas Stars for conditioning. Andrew Raycroft got the start Wednesday night in goal because Kari Lehtonen was scratched with lower-body stiffness. The Hurricanes go in with a clean bill of health.

Stat pack -- The Stars' road power-play success rate is last in the NHL at 4.8 percent, bad enough to call up an extra defenseman on their last trip. Fortunately it improves to a ninth-best 22.1 percent at home. … Dallas is 8-0-1 at home since losing to the Kings on Oct. 28 and is also 8-2-0 against the Eastern Conference. … The Canes haven't scored with a man advantage in 13 straight chances spanning four games, which started after they went 3-for-3 against the Bruins Nov. 26. They've lost six of their last seven on the road. … This weekend's back-to-back will be the eighth for the Hurricanes this season among a total of 21, the most they've had since relocating from Hartford, making up more than half their total schedule. This is also the second back-to-back in a stretch of four in a row, making the five-day hiatus since Sunday all the more welcome.

Puck drop --
"Obviously different guys have different methods of getting ready for games. We've got to make sure that every time we come to the rink for games that we have that energy level, because it's tough for us to battle from behind each game or have [goalie Cam Ward] have to stand on his head for the first 10 minutes before we get into it." -- Hurricanes defenseman Jamie McBain in the News and Observer on his team's recent tendency to start slow

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