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Stars, Ducks face off for first time since November

by David Kalan
STARS (34-23-6) at DUCKS (34-25-5)


Last 10 -- Dallas 4-5-1; Anaheim 5-4-1

Season series -- Anaheim has taken two of three from Dallas this season, but the Stars won their most recent meeting, a 2-1 win at American Airlines Center on Nov. 16.

Big story -- Long time no see. It's almost unheard of for division rivals to go more than half a season without meeting, but that's the case for the Stars and Ducks, who haven't played since mid-November. Given the nature of the tight West playoff race, the renewal of this rivalry, as well as the two points that come with each of those renewals, will have an enormous impact on the season's final month.

Team Scope:

Stars -- Dallas is still in the thick of the playoff chase, and given how the Stars played in February that's an impressive feat. The Stars went 1-8-1 before winning their last three games, a prolonged slump that put Dallas' postseason fate in extreme doubt after a first half in which they controlled the Pacific. Lately a recovery has been in order, however, punctuated by Jamie Benn's dramatic game-winning power-play goal Tuesday with 4.8 seconds left, giving the Stars a 3-2 win in Phoenix.

The Stars will look to keep seize the momentum as they open a three-game swing through California, but more encouraging than the wins could be the signs that the offense is getting back in the swing despite Brad Richards' extended stay on the sidelines with a concussion. Dallas has scored at least three goals in each of the three wins, something the Stars did just twice in their previous 10 games. One reason why? Defenseman Alex Goligoski has three points in his first four games since coming to Dallas in a trade from Pittsburgh.

Ducks -- Anaheim has a mini-winning streak of its own after a memorable win Wednesday night in which Bobby Ryan converted a penalty shot in overtime, beating Detroit's Jimmy Howard to give the Ducks a 2-1 win.

The best news for the Ducks has been the play of recent acquisition Dan Ellis. Starting in the place of All-Star Jonas Hiller, who has been out since Feb. 13 while battling dizziness and vertigo, Ellis has yet to lose in regulation in three starts with the Ducks while posting a 1.91 goals-against average.

Who's hot -- Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has led by example in Anaheim with 12 points in his last nine games. ... One of the big reasons for Dallas' recovery is goalie Kari Lehtonen, who has won three straight starts while compiling a 1.68 GAA and a .946 save percentage in that span.

Injury report -- Richards and defenseman Nicklas Grossman (hip) both have missed the Stars' last seven games. They skated at Thursday's practice, but there's no date set for either to return. … Hiller has no timetable for his return. Center Saku Koivu has missed the Ducks' last four games with a groin injury.

Stat pack -- Dallas could make a case for having the hardest remaining schedule in the League. Both the Stars and Ducks play in the Pacific Division, which could legitimately see all five teams reach the playoffs. Over their 14 games in March, the Stars face division foes nine times.

Puck drop -- Typically these division foes have plenty at stake when they face off, but after such a long sabbatical from their rivalry this season, they still have three games left to play in the season's final five weeks. With so few games left in the season and so many points still at stake for Dallas and Anaheim, each of these teams has the chance to singlehandedly knock the other from the race in the second half of their season series.

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