GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's been nearly two years since the Dallas Stars traded Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals, signaling a youth movement in Texas and giving Alex Ovechkin a set-up man in D.C.
Riberio and the Stars haven't seen each other since. Dallas and Washington didn't play in the shortened 2012-13 season. Riberio signed with the Phoenix Coyotes as a free agent in the summer of 2013, but the Stars moved out of the Pacific Division and the number of games between the teams was reduced to three.
The first encounter comes Tuesday at Jobing.com Arena, and there is a lot more than a reunion to talk about.
With a win and some help, the ninth-place Coyotes could jump past the slumping Vancouver Canucks into the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff race. The Canucks play at the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the surging Stars are one of three teams just three points behind Phoenix and can move within a point of ninth place with a regulation win.
The two teams will play twice in the next five days, with the rematch coming Saturday in Dallas.
For Ribeiro, who played six years and scored 123 regular-season goals in a Dallas uniform, the night will be undeniably special, as will the trip to Big D this weekend.
"It's always fun to play against your old team and it took almost two years but I'm looking forward to it," said Riberio, who leads the Coyotes with 39 points and had a goal and an assist in Phoenix's 4-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
"It's interesting to see your old teammates. I enjoyed my time in Dallas. Coming down from (the Montreal Canadiens in 2006), it gave me a good place to concentrate on my game. I had a chance to play with some great players and be part of a great power play. I had a great time, but at some point it was time to move on."
Ribeiro is a big reason why the Coyotes' power-play unit, which has ranked near the bottom of the NHL for years, is eighth overall this season at 20.0 percent and seventh at home (22.3 percent). Riberio has 11 of his 39 points with the man-advantage.
Ribeiro holds no ill will toward the Stars organization and understands change is part of the culture.
"I don't think (staying with one team forever) happens anymore," he said. "At some point, I know it would be my time to go. Hopefully, I can play the rest of my career here."
The Coyotes will have another ex-Star in net and they are hoping Mike Smith has finally found his A-game. Smith made 23 saves in the win against Pittsburgh and is 2-0-1 in his past three stars as he tries to emerge from a two-month funk.
Smith has lost only one time in regulation to the Stars in 13 career starts (7-1-5) and has a 1.95 goals-against average with two shutouts.
Dallas is 4-1-1 in the past six games and coming off a 2-0 shutout against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Dan Ellis stopped all 26 shots for the Stars, but No. 1 goalie Kari Lehtonen, 7-3-4 with a 2.27 goals-against average in 15 career starts against Phoenix, gets the nod.
Here are the projected lineups for the Stars and Coyotes:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Erik Cole - Cody Eakin - Rich Peverley
Antoine Roussel - Vernon Fiddler - Ryan Garbutt
Ray Whitney – Shawn Horcoff – Alex Chiasson
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Brenden Dillon – Jordie Benn
Aaron Rome – Sergei Gonchar
Scratched: Kevin Connauton
Injured: Stephane Robidas
Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker
Shane Doan - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Rob Klinkhammer - Mike Ribeiro - David Moss
Paul Bissonnette - Kyle Chipchura - Jeff Halpern
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
David Schlemko – Connor Murphy
Scratched: David Rundblad, Michael Stone, Tim Kennedy