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Stars face off against Rangers' stingy defense

by Tal Pinchevsky

RANGERS (10-11-0) at STARS (11-7-2)


Last 10: New York 6-4-0; Dallas 7-2-1

Season series: This is the first of two meetings between the New York Rangers and Dallas Stars, two teams that haven't met since Dec. 13, 2011, a 1-0 Stars win at Madison Square Garden. They play again Jan. 10 in New York.

Big story: The Stars' offense is being led by the hottest forward line in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Rangers' offense has stagnated despite the return of All-Star Rick Nash from a head injury that forced him to miss 17 games. Dallas could have a difficult time keeping its furious offensive pace against a New York team that has allowed three goals in the past three games.

Team Scope:

Rangers: New York welcomed Nash back Tuesday against the Boston Bruins, who eliminated the Rangers in five games in the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. As he did in the postseason, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stymied the Blueshirts, stopping 43 shots in the 2-1 win.

Nash admitted it took him a little while to find his legs in his first game action in six weeks. But as the game wore on and Boston played with only five defenseman after Dennis Seidenberg was hurt in the first period, Nash showed strong form coming down the wing. He tied for the team lead with five shots.

"The first period, the first couple of shifts, that was tough. But I felt I created some chances and some offense," Nash said. "Just a couple of little things are going to take a couple of games to get back."

If there was a positive to be gained from the game, it was the Rangers' power play, which went 1-for-3 and got a goal against a Boston penalty kill that hadn't allowed a score in its previous eight games.

Stars: The first line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and rookie Valeri Nichushkin had a night to remember on Nov. 14 against the Calgary Flames. The young trio combined for 13 points and Seguin and Benn enjoyed career nights with four goals and six points, respectively.

The Stars showed Sunday night that they could also win a tight-checking affair as they defeated the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 on the strength of Kari Lehtonen's 42 saves. The Benn line opened the scoring 9:33 into the game, as Nichushkin took Seguin's pass from behind the net and beat Roberto Luongo. Erik Cole scored the eventual game-winner in the third. But Lehtonen truly starred in the second, stopping 20 Vancouver shots to keep the Stars ahead 1-0.

Tuesday afternoon in Dallas, Dustin Jeffrey skated with the Stars for the first time since being claimed off waivers after playing parts of six seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"He's a good skater. You can never have enough depth," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We know what he can bring. Our scouts feel he can be a good addition to our team. We're fortunate now, knock on wood, that we haven't run into too much in the injury department."

Who's hot: As a unit, the Rangers' defense has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 12 of the past 14 games. … Seguin has six goals and eight points in his past four games while Benn has three goals and 10 points in his past six games.

Injury report: Taylor Pyatt has started skating individually but remains out for the Rangers with a concussion. … Stars forward Ray Whitney remains on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

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