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Pacific: Stars inching closer to Red Wings

by Doug Ward

Marty Turco made 48 of 50 saves in backstopping Dallas to two key wins over Anaheim and Detroit.
Marty Turco video highlights 
The weekend belonged to Phil Mickelson, LeBron James, and Ryan Newman. Still, no individual made a stronger statement than the collective one made by the Dallas Stars when they knocked off two of their chief Western Conference rivals within 48 hours.

The Stars began their weekend in Anaheim, where the Ducks took a five-game winning streak, lots of momentum, and two of their best — albeit occasionally wayward — players into Friday’s showdown. Yet, even with Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne fully integrated into the Anaheim lineup for the showdown at Honda Center, the result was no different than most of the head-to-head meetings between the two Pacific Division rivals this season.

The Stars’ 4-2 win gave them a 5-1 lead in the season series with the Ducks, while extending their lead over Anaheim in the division to six points. Dallas punctuated its weekend two days later, avoiding a letdown by taking care of business at home in an efficient 1-0 win over the Red Wings. Marty Turco pitched a shutout, and Niklas Hagman scored the only goal to complete the weekend sweep.

The balanced Stars — they score 2.82 goals per contest (11th in the League) while limiting opponents to 2.43 goals per game (sixth in the League) — are making a move in the Western Conference.

When the NHL shut down during the last weekend in January for the All-Star Game, Dallas was 18 points behind Detroit for both the conference lead and overall supremacy in the NHL. Since the All-Star break, Dallas has won nine of 10 to move to within eight points of Detroit for the overall NHL lead. The suddenly reeling Red Wings have just one win (1-5-1) in their last seven games.

“We’ve hunkered down, and we’re trying to make everybody raise their level,” Stars coach Dave Tippett told Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News. “We’re trying to become the best team we can be. If we want to be a very good team during the stretch drive and in the playoffs, we have to get better. Even in games we’ve won, we still have guys who have to get better. That has to continue to be our focus.”

Hoping to stay put -- Rob Blake, who spent much of the season dropping hints that he would be amenable to waiving his no-trade clause in order to join a contender before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, has had a change of heart. During a meeting last week with Kings GM Dean Lombardi, Blake, currently sidelined by a fracture in his left ankle, made it known he would like to stay with the Kings for the remainder of his playing career and beyond.

“I expressed my feelings to stay here and kind of do what I wanted to do when I came back here two years ago,” Blake told The Los Angeles Daily News.

Anaheim, San Jose, and Ottawa are among the contenders thought to be interested in the services of the 38-year-old Blake, who is in the final season of a two-year contract with Los Angeles. When his playing career does come to an end, Blake would like to move into a front-office job in the Kings organization.

The improving Kings have gone 10-5-1 in their last 16 games. Still, Los Angeles possesses the NHL’s worst record and is 13 points — and six teams — behind Calgary for the Western Conference’s final playoff position.

Around the Pacific -- Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky believes his team will need 92 points to qualify for the playoffs. “That seems to be the number,” Gretzky said. The Coyotes began with the week with 64 points in 59 games. That means they’ll need to pick up 28 points in 23 games to test Gretzky’s theory. … Teemu Selanne received a standing ovation from a sellout crowd when he took the Honda Center ice for the first time this season in Friday’s loss to Dallas. … When the Stars’ Niklas Hagman scored the game-wining goal in a 1-0 win over Detroit on Sunday, he equaled the single-season career-high of his father, Matti, who had 21 goals for Edmonton in 1981-82.

Who’s hot -- Shane Doan of Phoenix has five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in his last two games. Teammate Radim Vrbata has four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in two games. Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski has three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in two games. … The Ducks’ Chris Kunitz has picked up four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in two games. … Alexander Frolov of Los Angeles has four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in two games. … Marc-Edouard Vlasic of San Jose has four assists in his last four games. … The Stars’ Stephane Robidas has three points (2 goals, 1 assist) in two games. Dallas goaltender Marty Turco is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .960 save percentage in his last three games.

Who’s not -- Stu Barnes of the Stars and Jaroslav Modry of the Kings are both scoreless in 10 games. … Phoenix’s Keith Ballard has not scored in 11 games, while teammate Fredrik Sjostrom has gone eight contests without picking up a point. … Kyle McLaren of San Jose is in the midst of a five-game point drought.

The week ahead -- Anaheim, which has won six of seven games, will host Colorado (Wednesday), St. Louis (Friday), and Chicago (Sunday). … The red-hot Stars (9-1 in their last 10 games) host Calgary (Wednesday) and Edmonton (Friday). … Los Angeles, which opened a three-game homestand Monday against Phoenix, hosts St. Louis (Thursday) and Chicago (Saturday). … After beginning the week in Los Angeles, the Coyotes play host to Calgary (Tuesday), Colorado (Friday), and St. Louis (Sunday) The Sharks opened their eight-game, 16-night road trip with at a loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and will now visit Long Island (Monday), New Jersey (Wednesday), Philadelphia (Thursday), and Pittsburgh (Sunday).

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