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Stars and Avs look to break out of slumps

by John Kreiser

STARS (11-6-0) at AVALANCHE (8-10-1)


Last 10: Dallas 5-5-0; Colorado 2-7-1

Season Series: It's the second of four meetings this season. In the first, Dallas rallied to force overtime and then got a goal by Loui Eriksson in the extra period to beat the Avs 7-6. The Stars have won just twice in their last eight visits to the Pepsi Center, but have won the last three overall against the Avs.

Big Story: Two teams that have cooled off after hot starts will try to get that winning feeling back. Both are coming off shutout losses -- Dallas was embarrassed in a 6-0 home loss to Florida on Tuesday, while the Avs are back home after a 1-0 loss at Minnesota on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Stars: After winning 11 of their first 14, the Stars have come back to earth. The blowout loss to Florida was Dallas' third in a row. They've been outscored 14-3 in that span.

"This is probably the most embarrassing game we've had at home in quite some time, this season anyway," captain Brenden Morrow said of the loss to the Panthers. "Right now, you look back, it's probably been about nine periods where we've been outworked.

"Some periods in there, 5 to 10 minutes in those games where we've done things well, but it's pretty simple, we got outworked these last few games."

Avalanche: Like Dallas, the Avs have hit the skid. Thursday's loss was their eighth in 11 games. Even worse is that the Avalanche are 2-6-0 at home -- and have their next eight games in the Pepsi Center.

Colorado missed a chance on a third-period power play before allowing Devin Setoguchi to score the winning goal with 2:31 remaining in regulation on Thursday. Coach Joe Sacco said the power-play unit has to step up.

"Our power play has to deliver in the third period," Sacco said. "It wasn't good enough at that point. We have to step up. We have good players out there and we didn't get it done."

Who's Hot: Jamie Benn, a fifth-round pick in 2007, has six points in his last five games and leads Dallas with 19 points in 17 games. … Matt Duchene has goals in two of Colorado's last three games. New captain Milan Hejduk had six points in four games before Thursday night's shutout loss.

Injury Report: Dallas placed forward Adam Burish on IR Thursday with a broken hand and reactivated Steve Ott, who had been out with a hip injury. Defenseman Alex Goligoski (broken thumb) is also on IR. … The Avs are still without forward Peter Mueller (concussion). Forward Brandon Yip (broken right forearm) returned Thursday.

Stat Pack: One reason the Stars are struggling is simple -- they're being outshot badly on most nights. Dallas is averaging 26.9 shots per game while allowing 33.2 per contest.

Puck Drop: Perhaps the biggest surprise on one of the NHL's most surprising teams has been the play of Eric Nystrom, who was claimed on waivers by Dallas from Minnesota last month. Nystrom, who had just four goals all last season with the Wild, has already scored five times for the Stars while fitting in on a checking line with Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak.

"It's been awesome. We're not doing anything fancy. We're pretty straight line guys, think we all have pretty good speed and like to get in on the forecheck," he told the Stars' website. "Those guys are really strong down low. It's been a good fit. You can't explain chemistry but from the moment I played with those guys, we've had some pretty good chemistry."

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