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Red-hot Wings host Stars

by Brian Hunter /

STARS (8-5-6) at RED WINGS (10-5-3)

Last 10 - Dallas 4-3-3; Detroit 7-2-1

Season series - It's the first of four meetings this season between teams that met in the 2008 Western Conference Finals. The Stars won three times last season against the Red Wings, whose one victory was the most decisive in the series, a 6-1 triumph at Joe Louis Arena.

Big story -
Jimmy Howard is finally getting his chance to show what he can do in goal for Detroit, and the 25-year-old is taking full advantage. With Chris Osgood battling the flu, Howard has started and won three consecutive games, allowing just one goal in wins over Columbus and Vancouver. Osgood is practicing again but reportedly won't play against Dallas, meaning Howard will be in the spotlight once again.

Team scope:

Stars -- Wednesday's game marks the end of a four-game road trip for Dallas that has seen nothing but one-goal affairs with mixed results. The Stars fell 3-2 in Minnesota, rallied for a 3-2 shootout win at San Jose and were edged - you guessed it, 3-2 - by Phoenix in their most recent game on Saturday. A victory in Detroit would produce a split and a satisfying trip home.

"It's tough to build momentum," goalie Marty Turco told the Dallas Morning News. "Things seem to happen a lot easier when you get on a roll. You don't feel like you're grinding it out. Some guys can get on a roll and carry a team, but that hasn't been the case so far."

Red Wings - It was a bit of a wild one Saturday night at the Joe, but Detroit survived a run-and-gun third period thanks to Henrik Zetterberg's hat trick and came out with a 7-4 win over Anaheim. The Wings have won three straight and six of their last seven despite mounting injuries.

"It was pretty crazy back and forth," said Zetterberg, whose hat trick was the fourth of his career. "Too much back and forth. But we won the game. That was most important."

Who's hot - James Neal has eight goals in as many games for Dallas, and Mike Modano has goals in two straight. Turco is 5-1-1 in his last seven games with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage, and coach Marc Crawford said the time has come to increase the veteran's workload.

"We have taken care of the rest, and the schedule really has been very favorable for us, but it's time to play him now," Crawford told the Dallas Morning News. "When you have a stretch like this, you want your goalie sharp, and we think we are ready for this."

Zetterberg's three-goal effort gave the Detroit forward 4 goals and 9 points over his last three games to go along with a plus-5 rating -- and earn him First Star of the Week honors. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall has 3 goals, 7 points and a plus-5 rating over the same span, with forward Pavel Datsyuk adding 2 goals and 2 assists.

Injury report - Dallas forward Fabian Brunnstrom has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury. Forwards Brian Sutherby and Jere Lehtinen both missed the game against Phoenix due to groin injuries.

In addition to Osgood, forward Kirk Maltby has also been hit hard by the flu for Detroit, which is without forwards Valtteri Filppula (broken wrist), Jason Williams (broken fibula) and Johan Franzen (torn ACL), as well as defenseman Andreas Lilja (concussion).

Stat pack - Zetterberg has notched the winning goal in each of the Wings' last two games and leads the League with four game-winners. He recorded his 100 th career multi-point effort against the Canucks (1-1-2) and followed up with No. 101 against the Ducks, a career-best five-point night.

Puck drop -
Injuries, illness and free agency may have changed the face of the Detroit team, but it's as tough as ever to beat on home ice -- the Wings carry a 7-0-1 record at the Joe into this battle with Dallas.

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