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Stars, Coyotes set for Round 2

by Frank Mentesana
STARS (6-2-0) at COYOTES (3-3-1)

: FS-SW, FS-A (HD)

Season series: It's the second of six meetings between the Pacific Division rivals. On October 10 in Dallas, the Stars posted a 2-1 shootout victory after Loui Eriksson tied the game with 28 seconds left in regulation. Radim Vrbata tallied Phoenix's lone goal, while Mike Ribeiro scored the shootout winner to give the Stars the extra point. Three of the last six third-period goals between Dallas and Phoenix have been scored in the final minute of regulation, and the last five meetings overall have been decided by a lone goal.

Big Story: Despite having the lowest payroll in the League, the Stars are tied for the most points (12) in the Western Conference with another surprise team, the Colorado Avalanche. A key to Dallas' success has been the play of its goaltender, Kari Lehtonen, who is tied for the League lead in wins with Tomas Vokoun. Lehtonen's 6-0-0 start marks the first time in franchise history a goaltender has gone undefeated through his first six games. The Finnish netminder has allowed just nine 9 goals this season, posting a 1.48 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage. Those numbers become even gaudier considering Lehtonen has faced at least 36 shots a game so far this season. Lehtonen is 14-2-2 since the beginning of 2010-11 when facing at least 35 shots.
Team Scope:

Stars: While Lehtonen is off to a tremendous start, no goaltender is hotter than the Kings' Jonathan Quick -- something the Stars found out the hard way on Saturday. Los Angeles beat Dallas 1-0, snapping the Stars' five-game winning streak. Quick made 28 saves to send the Stars to just their second loss of the season. Backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft has been in goal for both defeats, as Lehtonen was given a rest in L.A. with the Stars playing on the second of back-to-back nights. Despite taking the loss, Raycroft played well, making several outstanding stops and saving all but one of the Kings' 24 shots.

Coach Glen Gulutzan's outlook remains positive as his team wraps up a four-game road trip in Phoenix with a chance to take six of eight possible points.

"We're disappointed with the outcome, but I guess we are going to rationalize it to ourselves in the fact that we thought that we played real well and the game could have gone either way," said Gulutzan. "I thought this was our best game all year, from start to finish. I thought that we are playing against a high-caliber hockey club and we played a solid game and it was back and forth."

Coyotes: After back-to-back home losses to the Blackhawks and Kings, the Coyotes traveled to Anaheim and held on for a 5-4 win over the Ducks on Sunday. Martin Hanzal scored his first two goals of the season in the first period for Phoenix, who tallied three more times in a span of just over three minutes early in the second to chase Jonas Hiller and take a commanding 5-2 lead. The Coyotes held on for the win by pressuring up the ice.

Phoenix was excellent on the forecheck, getting credit for seven takeaways and forcing Anaheim into 15 giveaways.

"We have to be a team that gets on the puck, and we can't be sitting back," captain Shane Doan said. "We count on every single line to contribute. It can't be just one group. We don't have the luxury of (Anaheim's) Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan line. We have to have everyone going and everyone forechecking and creating things off the pressure."

Andy Miele, the 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner, made his NHL debut Sunday and replaced Petteri Nokelainen as the fourth-line center for the Coyotes. Before the game, Nokelainen and defenseman prospect Garrett Stafford were traded to Montreal for Brock Trotter and a seventh-round draft pick in 2012.

Who's Hot: Steve Ott and Eriksson had point-scoring streaks snapped with the shutout loss in Los Angeles. Eriksson had notched 7 points over five straight games, and Ott had posted 6 points over six consecutive games. … For Phoenix, Ray Whitney has five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in his previous five games.

Injury Report: Both teams are completely healthy with one exception. Phoenix defenseman Michal Rozsival has been on IR since taking a puck to the face in the season opener.

Stat Pack: The Stars outshot the Kings 28-24 on Saturday, just the second time this season they've taken more shots on goal than their opponent. Lehtonen has a 1.94 GAA against the Coyotes, his third-lowest against any opponent. … The Coyotes are 2-for-23 on the power play over their last six games after going 3-for-7 in their season opener.    

Puck Drop: Gulutzan's 6-2-0 record is the best start of any coach's tenure in franchise history. He joins Murray Oliver and Jack Gordon as the only Dallas coaches to notch at least five victories in his first eight games behind the bench.

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