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Injury-plagued Stars head to Colorado

by Deborah Francisco
STARS (13-9-1) AT AVALANCHE (10-12-1)


Last 10: Dallas 3-6-1; Colorado 3-7-0.

Season Series: This is the third meeting of four between the Avalanche and the Stars. They split the first two games with Dallas prevailing 7-6 in a shootout in their first meeting in a game in which Matt Duchene notched his first career hat trick. In their last meeting on Nov. 18, the Avalanche shut out the Stars, 3-0.

Big Story: The Stars have hit a rough patch lately and hope to turn things around as they take on the Avalanche on Monday after losing their starting goaltender, Kari Lehtonen, to an injury over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Avalanche is coming off of a big home-win over the weekend and is looking to earn its first back-to-back win since opening the season with a five-game win streak in October.

Team Scope:

Stars: After going 2-0-1 in a four-game homestand over the Thanksgiving break, it looked like the Stars were headed for the turnaround they needed after a five-game winless streak. However, things turned ugly in a 3-0 shutout loss to division rival Phoenix on Saturday night when Lehtonen sustained a lower-body injury just 5:31 into the game and did not return. He was placed on injured reserve Sunday.

Things quickly went from bad to worse when defenseman Trevor Daley and center Vernon Fiddler also left with ailments over the course of the game.

But as the old saying goes, when the going gets tough sometimes the tough get going, and that’s exactly what the Stars need at this point in the season to maintain their current playoff position in the Western Conference Standings.

Backup goalie Andrew Raycroft started that push with a 33-save performance on Saturday night despite the loss.

"I've been a starter in the League and to be honest, feel more comfortable with it most of the time. You can get into a bit of a rhythm," Raycroft told the Stars' official web site. "I don't know quite how it will go, but it looks like I'll get a couple of games in a row at least, which will be nice to feel a rhythm and just get the pace of play down and get better reads, so I'm looking forward to that."

Avalanche: While the Colorado offense has struggled to find the back of the net lately, its defense stepped up in a big way on Saturday night to lead the Avalanche to their first win on their current eight-game homestand.

The defenseman combined for three goals in the third period to comeback from a 2-1 deficit to best division rival Edmonton 5-2. Rookie Stefan Elliott brought a breath of fresh air to the roster when he tallied his first NHL goal, coincidentally the game winner, on the night of his NHL debut.

"Pure joy and excitement," Elliott told the Denver Post after making his NHL debut. "It's special scoring my first goal, let alone in my first game, to get that first one out of the way."

Elliott was brought up from Colorado's AHL affiliate because of a day-to-day groin injury that has top defenseman Erik Johnson sidelined, but it looks likely that the youngster will stick around after his dramatic debut.

"It was a real important win for our club, and it's going to hopefully boost our confidence right now," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "To be able to score five, especially at home, is something that we've been talking about."

Who's Hot: Jamie Benn has four points in his last three games (1 goal, 3 assists). … Matt Duchene who scored a hat trick against the Stars once already this season leads the Avalanche in points with 17 (9 goals).

Injury Report: The Avalanche are without Erik Johnson (groin) and Peter Mueller (concussion). … Dallas has been bitten by a bad case of the injury bug lately and is without defenseman Alex Goligoski (broken thumb), Adam Burish (broken hand), Trevor Daley and center Vernon Fiddler and also captain Brenden Morrow, who has missed three-straight contests with an upper body injury.

Stat Pack: Dallas' power play has gone 0-for-16 in the last seven games. The last Star to score with the man advantage was Loui Eriksson, who scored against the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 12. The power play against Colorado has been effective this season, scoring on three of their seven opportunities against them (42.9 percent).

Puck Drop: "Stick with the process, keep doing the little things. When things get harder, there's two ways to react to it -- either you fold and try to find excuses, or you just take up the challenge. Everybody's got to step up their game. It's an opportunity for some guys to show what you can do and as a hockey player, that's what you want -- you want a chance to show what you can do. It's up to us to do it. There's no excuses. We've got to do the little things right and we can't beat ourselves." -- Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas on overcoming injuries

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