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Pacific: Petersen earning ice time increase

by John Kreiser
As the Dallas Stars continue to struggle, center Toby Petersen has stepped up his game.

The 31-year-old is playing his best hockey of the season, even as the Stars have struggled to a 2-6-0 mark in their last eight games. He has 2 goals and is plus-3 in his last six games, and his improved play has been rewarded with more ice time.

"I think that Toby's been one of our four or five best players here in the last little while," Stars coach Marc Crawford told the team's Web site. "He's a good player because he works and he's also a good player because he's smart. Positionally, he's terrific. That combination, of being smart and working hard, is pretty powerful and he's got a little skill to go with it, too."

Petersen's 5 goals are one more than he scored all last season, and his confidence along with his ice time, which includes a season-high 21:13 on in Saturday's 3-2 shootout win over Detroit.

"Maybe the confidence is coming a little bit more," he acknowledged, "and that sort of thing just sort of cannonballs when you have one good game, it sort of leads into the next and helps you with puck protection and handling the puck and making good, patient plays, but other than that, the effort's been the same all year. Unfortunately, it's kind of coincided with a little bit of a tough streak here for the team, so obviously, we do whatever we can on a personal level and on a team level -- we're all trying to do what we can just to get things going in the right direction and (Saturday's win) was a good step."

Petersen's versatility -- he can play anywhere up front and has no trouble mixing and matching linemates -- has been a big help to the injury-plagued Stars' front line.

"I think Petey is a do-it-all player, he can jump in any situation, right wing, center, left wing," occasional linemate Steve Ott told the Stars' site. "Defensive responsibility, he's very accountable and I think that makes him easy to put out there and easy to play. You always see him blocking shots, sacrificing himself and for a guy that can play fourth line, first line, all over, we need guys like that and Petey's been instrumental."

Savoring that home cooking -- The Honda Center has turned into a tough place for anyone not wearing an Anaheim Ducks uniform.

Anaheim has won eight consecutive games in its building, two shy of the franchise record set in February 2008. The latest victim was the Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo Sabres -- the Ducks scored four times in the first 10:26 and held on for a 5-4 win.

The Ducks set franchise records for the fastest two, three and four goals from the start of a game. But it was a late goal by rookie Troy Bodie with 4:07 left that turned out to be the winner.

"Tonight wasn't the prettiest effort throughout the whole game, but we were able to get that early lead and hold it," center Ryan Getzlaf said.

Not only have the Ducks won eight straight at home, they've scored four or more goals in all eight of those games.

Their task now is to carry that success at home into their six-game road trip, which begins Thursday night in San Jose.

"Again, we have to take the show on the road now," coach Randy Carlyle said. "If you want to be a playoff team, you're going to have to win on the road."

"We've played pretty well at home lately," said goaltender Jonas Hiller, now 7-1-0 in his last eight starts. "At least we got the points and found ways to win. We have to do the same thing on the road now. We have that confidence that we can win every game. We have to keep going. It's not going to come by itself. We have to work hard, especially if we can start like tonight and play 60 minutes."

But not everywhere -- While their Southern California rivals have been gobbling up wins and points at home, the Los Angeles Kings aren't profiting from their seven-game homestand, which ends when Buffalo comes to Staples Center on Thursday.

The Kings are 2-4-0 through six games of the long homestand, including a 5-1 loss to San Jose on Tuesday in which they spotted the Sharks a 3-0 lead after one period. Only the fact that Detroit had lost earlier in the evening at Washington kept the Kings alone in the eighth and last playoff spot in the West.

Coach Terry Murray says his team can't continue to waste the chance to put points in the bank at home.

"We have to grab a hold of these opportunities," Murray said. "You start to let them slip away, and you want to turn the table, and the next thing you know, it's too late to turn the table. We've got to jump on those games in front of us right now."

More troubling is the fact that the Kings continue to try to win while playing from behind. With the exception of a 4-0 win vs. Anaheim, L.A. has trailed in all five games -- and has been down two or more goals in four of them.

"I think part of the responsibility lies with the leadership group, but ultimately each individual has to prepare themselves," captain Dustin Brown said after Tuesday's loss. "If we all prepare ourselves individually and get ready for the game, we go out and we do our thing and we're fine. It's when you only have one line here, or one defensive pairing here, that are going.

"There are 20 guys on this team for a reason. Everyone needs to be there and play hard. Ultimately it comes down to preparation, individually and collectively."

A night to remember -- The 17,562 fans who packed the Shark Tank on Monday night got everything they wanted -- except a 10th goal.

The Sharks got goals from eight players in a 9-1 victory vs. Calgary. With the Sharks on a power play in the 3:30, the chant of "We Want 10" rocked the building. The Sharks didn't hit double figures, but they did set a team record for most goal-scorers in a game

Many of the players who scored hadn't been on the board in quite some time. Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe hadn't scored since Dec. 30. Rob Blake had gone without a goal since Dec. 11. Manny Malhotra hadn't scored since Dec. 9, while Scott Nichol's drought had extended to Nov. 17 and Jed Ortmeyer's to Nov. 14.

It's great to be rewarded," said Nichol who reached the 100-point total for his career. "That's why we play the game. It's fun to score."

The abundance of secondary scoring, which began in Saturday's 4-2 win vs. Edmonton and extended through Tuesday's 5-1 win at Los Angeles, was a welcome relief for the Sharks. Before Devin Setoguchi ended a nine-game goal drought with two goals against the Oilers, the Sharks had gone six games without a goal from any forwards other than the top unit of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley.

"It's nice to see different guys (scoring) so it's not 12, 15 and 19 all the time," coach Todd McLellan said. "Sometimes the hockey gods treat you a little different."

Around the Pacific -- Dallas is a completely different team at home and on the road. The Stars are 11-3-2 in their last 16 games at the American Airlines Center, but just 1-9-3 in their last 13 away from home. The bad news: They started a Western Canada swing Wednesday night in Vancouver. ... The arrival of the new year hasn't been a good thing for Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The NHL's Second Star for December has struggled in January, allowing four goals in six of seven starts. "Stops he was making earlier in the year he just isn't able to get right now," coach Dave Tippett said. "We need to keep working with him." Tippett's next victory will be his 300th as an NHL coach. ... The Stars had to place forward Jere Lehtinen back on the injured list this week, this time with an upper-body injury. He's been plagued by groin and abdominal ailments all season and has played just 32 games. ... Anaheim's success at home goes well beyond its current eight-game winning streak. In all, the Ducks are 14-2-2 in their last 18 games at home. ... The Ducks' 5-4 win vs. Calgary on Monday was their 11th in a row over the Flames at the Honda Center. It's the longest streak against any team in franchise history. Calgary hasn't won in Anaheim since Jan. 19, 2004. ... Los Angeles' power play is in a funk. The Kings are 0-for-21 in their last four games. ... Several Kings have added yellow socks made of Kevlar to their hockey equipment. Known as the Tactics Skate Sock, it's designed to prevent the injuries that come from players being stepped on or slashed, an increasingly common occurrence in today's game. Coach Terry Murray said he hopes all of his players start wearing the sock, which fits under a player's regular hockey socks. ... San Jose's power play must be disappointed there are no more trips to Los Angeles on the schedule. The Sharks finished the season 8-for-10 with the man advantage at the Staples Center, including a 3-for-3 showing in Tuesday's 5-1 win. ... San Jose's penalty-killing has been pretty good, too. After going 5-for-5 against the Kings, the Sharks' PK unit is a perfect 24-for-24 in its last seven games.

Material from team media was used in this report.

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