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Stars-Coyotes Preview

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GAME: Dallas Stars (5-4-1) at Phoenix Coyotes (5-6-1).

TIME: Saturday, 10 p.m. EDT.

It took a few weeks, but Wayne Gretzky is beginning to see some chemistry with his team.

Gretzky and the Phoenix Coyotes will try for their third straight win when they host the slumping Dallas Stars.

"We're starting to get a little bit of an identity as a team," said Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leading scorer, who is in his first season as a coach at any level. "The thing I like most about our team is that we work hard. Since the first day of training camp, the work ethic of our group each and every day is tremendously strong. That enables you to get better every day as a team. And that's what makes your team stronger."

The Coyotes have won four of their last six after opening the season 1-4-1.

Mike Comrie scored twice and Curtis Joseph earned his 400th career victory as Phoenix beat Calgary 3-2 on Thursday.

Although pleased with the personal milestone, Joseph, one of several new players for the franchise this season, was more excited about the improved play of the team.

"I'm happy we came out and arguably played our best game of the year," said Joseph, who made 13 saves. "I give a lot of credit to our team."

Comrie, who has six points in his last three games, also feels the team is coming together.

"We are getting back on track and our lines are playing well," he said. "We are creating a lot of chances and when we do that we are successful. We still need to work on keeping our lead and shutting them down defensively."

One area where the Coyotes need improvement is on the penalty kill. They rank 23rd in the league in penalty-kill percentage, allowing 15 goals on 70 chances.

Dallas lost for the fourth time in five games, 5-3 to visiting Edmonton on Friday.

Bill Guerin and Mike Modano scored within a 30-second span in the second period to forge a 2-2 tie, but Edmonton's Radek Dvorak put Edmonton ahead for good midway through the final period.

"We keep shooting ourselves in the foot," Guerin said. "Little mistakes add up to big problems. If you fold the tent and get frustrated, you're not going to get much. We're not putting everything we have into it."

Turco, who made 20 saves Friday, has allowed five goals in three of his last five games, going 1-3-1 in that span. He is 6-3-1 with a 2.61 goals-against average in 14 career games against Phoenix.

Dallas needs its best players to contribute more offensively. Jere Lehtinen and rookie Jussi Jokinen have combined for 10 goals while Guerin, Modano and Jason Arnott, who all scored Friday, have combined for only nine.

STANDINGS: Stars - 11 points, 2nd place (tied), 3 PB, Pacific Division. Coyotes - 11 points, 2nd place (tied), 3 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Stars - Lehtinen, 6 goals; Modano, 8 assists and 11 points; John Erskine, 41 PIM. Coyotes - Mike Leclerc and Oleg Saprykin, 4 goals; Paul Mara, 8 assists and 10 points; Tyson Nash, 38 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Stars - Power play: 14.2 percent (8 for 56), tied for 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.5 percent (56 for 67), 11th. Coyotes - Power play: 18.2 percent (15 for 82), 16th. Penalty killing: 78.5 percent (55 for 70), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Stars - Turco (4-4-1, 0 SO, 3.64 GAA); Johan Hedberg (1-0-0, 3.24). Coyotes - Joseph (4-3-0, 1, 2.32); David Leneveu (1-3-1, 3.39).

SEASON SERIES: Stars, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 11; Stars, 3-2. At Dallas, Modano had a goal and an assist and Turco made 23 saves to lead the Stars.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Stars - 2-1-0 on the road; Coyotes - 3-1-1 at home.

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