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Senators make rare visit to Dallas

by Matthew Mankiewich

SENATORS (12-10-2) at STARS (14-9-1)

TV: SNET-OTT, TVA, FS-Southwest (HD)

LAST 10: Ottawa 5-3-2, Dallas 3-6-1

Season Series: It's the only meeting between the teams this season. The Stars have won the last two of these annual inter-conference meetings, the Senators the two before that. Jason Spezza has at least one fond memory of the Senators' last visit to the American Airlines Center on March 20, 2010 -- he logged his third career hat trick and first on the road in the 5-4 loss.

Big Story: Both teams are happy to put mixed Novembers behind them -- each had to recover from a five-game losing streak. They enter the matchup fresh off solid road wins, with the Stars earning a 3-1 victory in Colorado and the Senators overcoming two blown leads in a 6-4 win in Winnipeg. Both are in the thick of tight conference and division races and both have had to deal with a lot of injuries the past few weeks.

Team Scope:

Senators: Coach Paul MacLean played a hunch when he called on Zack Smith and his third line to join a Senators power play late in the third period of Tuesday's game in Winnipeg, and it paid off. Smith broke a 4-4 tie with his second goal of the night as the Senators beat the Jets for the second time this season.

"I had to do a double-take there," Smith said. "That was only my second or third shift (on the power play) this season. But I guess he wanted to change things up."

"I think I actually called (Smith's name) three times before he got over the bench (on the power play)," MacLean said. "They did a good job. They played really hard, and when that happens you have to reward players.

"I was a little bit happy and unhappy with my team ... but at the end of the night, we found a way to win. We showed some resilience and we continued to play to the end of the game, and worked really hard."

Stars: Like the Senators, the Stars have gotten production from unexpected sources. Eric Nystrom led the Stars with seven goals in November while playing on a checking line with Radek Dvorak and Vernon Fiddler. The three combined for 22 points over the course of the month.

"When you get contributions from guys not on your top couple lines, you always give yourself a chance to win," Nystrom said on the Stars' official website. "If we continue to chip in offensively throughout the year that really takes some pressure off those guys when things are going so well. If we can chip in, it's huge."

Who's Hot: Not only did Smith have his first multi-goal game of his career in the win at Winnipeg, his six goals this season already match his career high. He has also scored the winning goal in the Senators' last two games. Milan Michalek's two goals Tuesday gave him a team-leading 14, four of those coming against Winnipeg. Defenseman Eric Karlsson picked up an assist to increase his NHL-leading total to 21, though he fell to second place overall in All-Star voting this week. ... Nystrom has five points in his last five games, as does Michael Ryder. Andrew Raycroft logged his first win since Jan. 9 by beating the Avs. He had lost his previous seven straight, including all five this season.

Injury Report: One reason for both teams' up-and-down Novembers has been injuries, and Nikita Filatov joined a long list of Senators walking wounded Tuesday when he took a skate in the face, narrowly missing being injured by the blade. He has not ruled out a return Thursday. Filip Kuba (lower body) is considered doubtful after he was forced out of Tuesday's game after taking a hit. Forward Chris Neil (high ankle sprain) could return Thursday but the Senators remain cautious. … Stars captain Brenden Morrow got an injection for his back on Monday and could be back in the lineup Thursday, while goalie Kari Lehtonen (groin) is weeks away along with Adam Burish (broken hand). Trevor Daley (upper body) is day-to-day.

Stat Pack: The Stars are 10-3-1 when Jamie Benn registers at least one point and 4-6-0 when he doesn't. They're 6-0-1 when he has a multi-point game. … Dallas' Toby Petersen has more career goals against the Senators (four) than any other team. His only career hat trick came against the Senators on Oct. 16, 2001. … The Stars have allowed only one power-play goal in their last five games (16-for-17 on kills) and are 3-1-1 in those games. They have not lost in regulation (3-0-1) at home against an Eastern Conference Canadian team since 2009. … Spezza scored his 200th goal Sunday at home against Carolina. … Michalek's 14 goals are one more than half of his season career high of 26 in 2006-07 with the Sharks. .. Daniel Alfredsson has 11 points in 17 career games against the Stars.

Puck Drop: "It was a good month in a couple of ways. We went through some adversity. We kind of got back on track. For our coaching staff and me, we had that 11-3 start but really we got pushed out of our comfort zone. When you get pushed outside that comfort zone, that's when you tend to get better, stronger and more resilient." -- Stars coach Glen Gulutzan on his team's 6-6-1 November

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