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Red Wings, Stars focused on playing better defense

by Paul Harris / NHL.com

STARS (9-11-5) at RED WINGS (14-6-5)

TV: NHLN-US; FS-SW, FS-D

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings and the Dallas Stars mainly are concerned with tightening up defensively when they play Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.

Despite a winning five of their past seven games, Detroit has allowed 23 goals in that span. Dallas has allowed 15 goals in its last three, going 0-2-1, and the Stars enter play Thursday 30th in goals-against per game at 3.52.

"Suddenly because we're scoring more doesn't mean we should be giving up more. That makes no sense," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff talked about how his team has to start the game Thursday.

"It's going to start with playing a good 20-minute road period," Ruff said. "And that's going to start with defense. We can't start the game like we did against Toronto."

The Stars lost 5-3 to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

"We've lost our way a little bit, not playing with the same intensity and speed and not taking care of the puck," said Dallas center Jason Spezza.

Spezza said the Stars' defensive abilities will be tested severely by the Red Wings.

"They play a good puck possession game. Their [defense] moves the puck well," Spezza said. "Obviously with [Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg], they're a dynamic group. … You give them too many looks and they're obviously going to score a goal on you."

Babcock split Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the morning skate but said he may change that plan by game time.

The Red Wings want to bounce back from a 4-3 loss Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.

"We were no good," Babcock said. "So we didn't work, we didn't execute. The other team worked harder than us; they were on top. We turned over pucks; we weren't good.

"Hockey is a real fair game, so if you work hard and focus on the details and you play well without the puck, you have the puck all of the time. That didn't happen for us. So two of the last three games we've been down 4-1 and catch-up hockey doesn't work.”

Detroit rallied for a 5-4 shootout win against the New Jersey Devils after trailing 4-1 the day after Thanksgiving.

Babcock said he was impressed by Dallas' speed and skill, especially down the middle.

"Great speed through the middle, good skill level," he said. "I have a lot of respect for Jamie Benn. [Tyler] Seguin is really developing into a player in the League. Obviously Spezza is good at what he does.

"So to me they've got lots of skill on their team, and so if we want to play run-and-gun I don't like that; I'd rather us just play well at what we do and not spend too much time worrying about them."

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Shawn Horcoff

Colton Sceviour - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Erik Cole

Travis Moen - Vernon Fiddler - Ryan Garbutt

Trevor Daley - Alex Goligoski

Jordie Benn - Jason Demers

John Klingberg - Jyrki Jokipakka

Jussi Rynnas

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Curtis McKenzie, Jamie Oleksiak

Injured: Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip/groin)

RED WINGS

Gustav Nyquist - Henrik Zetterberg - Johan Franzen

Tomas Tatar - Pavel Datsyuk - Darren Helm

Tomas Jurco - Riley Sheahan - Stephen Weiss

Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Joakim Andersson

Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson

Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser

Brendan Smith - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Scratched: Daniel Cleary, Brian Lashoff

Injured: Justin Abdelkader (shoulder)

Status report: Ruff told reporters not to read anything into the lines the Stars used Thursday morning. ... It will be Rynnas' first start after being recalled from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. … Abdelkader will miss his second game since sustaining his shoulder injury Sunday.

Who's hot: Datsyuk has five goals and an assist in his past four games. ... Zetterberg has a five-game point streak; he has one goal and six assists in that span. ... Weiss has three goals and three assists in his past five games.

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