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GAME: Florida Panthers (9-15-4) at Dallas Stars (17-7-1).

TIME: Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. EST.

Before heading out on a road trip, the Dallas Stars should be happy to see the Florida Panthers begin one at the American Airlines Center.

Dallas goes for its 12th win in 14 games as it tries to extend Florida's road losing streak to 10 games.

The Stars will open a season-high, six-game road trip in Toronto on Saturday, but first host a Florida team that hasn't won away from home in six weeks.

The Panthers have dropped nine consecutive road games since beating Pittsburgh 4-3 in overtime on Oct. 25.

Dallas, meanwhile, has won six of seven at home - part of an 11-2 stretch since Nov. 2. During that 13-game span, the Stars have averaged 3.69 goals and allowed 2.08 per game.

Center Mike Modano ended a nine-game scoring drought with two first-period goals, including one on the power play, and had the deciding shootout tally to give Dallas a 5-4 victory over Carolina on Friday night.

The Stars are 3-0 in shootouts this season and have at least one power-play goal in 16 straight games, one shy of matching the franchise record set Oct. 11-Nov. 18, 1986, when the team was in Minnesota.

Dallas has outshot opponents 217-155 in the last seven games, including 31-20 against the Hurricanes. Niko Kapanen and Brenden Morrow added goals for Dallas, while Sergei Zubov's assist on Modano's first goal gave him 315 with the Stars, tying Craig Hartsburg for the most by a defenseman in franchise history.

The Stars allowed two power-play goals, but killed the Hurricanes' two chances with the man advantage in overtime.

"It seems like every game, special teams become a factor at some point," said Stars penalty killer Stu Barnes, who spent three-plus seasons with the Panthers from 1993-96. "We had a lot of (penalty killing) late, especially when you get into overtime, 4-on-3, it's a different situation."

Top goaltender Marty Turco should be back in net after getting a week off. The Stars haven't played since Friday, and backup Johan Hedberg got the start in that win. Turco started the previous 12 games, posting a 1.92 goals-against average.

Dallas may be without defenseman Philippe Boucher, who left in the third period Friday with an upper body injury.

While the Stars are clicking on offense and defense, the Panthers continue to struggle. Florida has been outshot 81-55 in its last two games and has scored an Eastern Conference-low 69 goals.

Florida has allowed a power-play goal in five straight games, including two in a 6-3 loss to Ottawa on Monday. It was the second-most goals the Panthers have given up this season.

"I'm disappointed, but you have to keep in mind they're the best team in the league," said Panthers coach Jacques Martin, who coached Ottawa to eight consecutive postseason appearances through 2003-2004.

"A top team like that doesn't give us many turnovers."

STANDINGS (through Dec. 6): Panthers - 22 points, 4th place, 14 PB, Southeast Division. Stars - 35 points, 1st place (tied), Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 12 goals, 14 assists and 26 points; Chris Gratton, 39 PIM. Stars - Jere Lehtinen, 12 goals; Jason Arnott, 16 assists and 26 points; Steve Ott, 66 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 6): Panthers - Power play: 14.3 percent (22 for 153), 27th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.3 percent (142 for 179), 26th. Stars - Power play: 17.7 percent (30 for 169), 15th. Penalty killing: 82.5 percent (137 for 166), 14th.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Roberto Luongo (9-13-4, 2 SO, 3.23 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-2-0, 2.73). Stars - Turco (14-6-1, 1, 2.60); Hedberg (3-1-0, 3.86).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Panthers, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 19, 2003; Panthers, 1-0. At Sunrise, Fla., Marcus Nilson scored the only goal of the game and Luongo made 36 saves to lead the Panthers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 2-9-3 on the road; Stars - 9-5-1 at home.

Associated Press
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