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Oilers complete long road trip by facing Stars

by Brian Hunter
OILERS (16-21-3) at STARS (22-16-1)


Last 10:
Edmonton 2-8-0; Dallas 5-5-0

Season Series: Second of four meetings. The Stars got a balanced effort in a 4-1 win on Nov. 21, as four different players scored goals and 11 recorded a point. Meanwhile, they permitted only 18 shots and winning goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped 17 of them.

Big Story: The end of the road (trip) has finally arrived for the Oilers, who get to reclaim Rexall Place next week after having to vacate for the World Junior Championship. Dallas marks the seventh and last stop on a journey that hasn't been particularly kind to Edmonton -- although the Oilers beat the Blackhawks to open the new year, they've lost the other five games and given up an average of four goals per game on this trip.

Team Scope:

Oilers: On the plus side, Edmonton's offense has clicked for at least three goals in five of the six games on the road swing -- but in order to start picking up wins the Oilers must figure out how to keep the puck out of their own net. They lost their second straight 4-3 decision Thursday in St. Louis in rather excruciating fashion. Power-play goals by Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle sandwiched around a score by Ben Eager gave them a 3-1 lead heading into the third period, but the Blues roared back.

"Tough losses add up," goalie Devan Dubnyk said. "That's a game we need to win and we should win."

Stars: Facing one of the teams it figures to be battling the remainder of the season for a Western Conference playoff berth, Dallas got a gritty effort from Mike Ribeiro in recording a 4-1 win over Nashville on Thursday. Ribeiro staked the Stars to a pair of one-goal leads in the first period and the second time around Jamie Benn and Adam Burish built on the lead by scoring. Ribeiro ended up leaving briefly when a puck hit him in the face, but returned wearing a full cage over his face and finished the game.

"He's had some real good games for us, but certainly some of that elusiveness you saw tonight was on display," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "I thought his compete level was real high, and I really liked his game. He's just not as good looking as he was before. We're just thankful it wasn't a broken jaw."

Who's Hot: Sam Gagner has 2 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak for the Oilers. Hall (3-1-4) and Eberle (1-3-4) have three-game points streaks active. … Benn (2-5-7), Loui Eriksson (2-3-5) and Tom Wandell (1-3-4) have three-game points streaks active for the Stars.

Injury Report:
Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert (knee) has missed the last two games and fellow blueliner Ryan Whitney (ankle) has been sidelined for six games. Forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), the NHL's rookie of the month for October and November, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and will miss 3-4 weeks. … Dallas forward Philip Larsen has missed the last two games with concussion-like symptoms, while forward Tomas Vincour (knee) and defenseman Sheldon Souray (ankle) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
Ryan Jones leads the Oilers in shooting percentage (18.5) and his 12 goals are just six off the career high he set last season. … Lehtonen's next victory will be the 150th of his career -- the last 55 have come with the Stars after he was acquired in a trade with the Thrashers on Feb. 9, 2010.

Puck Drop:
Ribeiro broke a tooth when a shot by Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley hit him, but willed his way back into Thursday's game.

"I didn't have a headache and I saw them getting all of the power plays in the third, and I wanted to get out there," he said in the Dallas Morning News. "I'll see the dentist tomorrow, but I really feel fine right now."

The determination didn't go unnoticed by his teammates.

"It was really gritty," defenseman Stephane Robidas said of Ribeiro's return. "He showed a lot of courage, came back and played a really good game. He's a big piece of our team."
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