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Stars hope to avoid three-game skid against Florida

by Frank Mentesana
PANTHERS (8-5-3) at STARS (11-5-0)


Last 10: Florida 5-2-3; Dallas 6-4-0.

Season Series: Tuesday's contest is the lone matchup this season between these clubs. Dallas won its only meeting last season 4-1, as Jamie Benn led the way with three assists. The Stars have earned points in five of their last six games against Florida, posting a 3-1-2 record in that stretch.

Big Story: The No. 2 seed in the Western Conference squares off with the second-place team in a tough Southeast division. A couple of months ago, who would have thought that description would be for a mid-November game between the Stars and Panthers? Despite having the NHL's lowest payroll, Dallas is tied for the League-lead in wins, having already posted two separate winning streaks of four and five games on the young season. The Panthers -- who finished 28th in the overall standings last season -- have lost consecutive games in regulation only once this season. They are 11th in the League in scoring with 2.81 goals-per-game and have been jostling with the Capitals for the top spot in the division the first five weeks of the season.

Team Scope:

Panthers: The Panthers had a six-game point streak snapped on Sunday, falling to the Flyers at home, 3-2. Florida, who was 3-0-3 during the streak, could not overcome a 2-0 deficit and finished 0-for-7 on the power play. Evgeny Dadonov scored in his first game of the season after coming up from San Antonio (AHL), and Tomas Fleischmann tallied in the waning seconds to make the final score a one-goal margin.

The turning point in the game came early in the third period when the Panthers had a two-man advantage for 40 seconds, but could not find the back of the net. Shortly after the 5-on-3 ended, Flyers forward Matt Read was hooked down on a breakaway by Jason Garrison and awarded a penalty shot, on which he scored to give Philadelphia a 3-1 edge. Stephen Weiss, one of the Cats' leading scorers, received a game misconduct for arguing the call.

"I think our composure overall was not great tonight and that was a pretty good example of it, to lose our top forward for the last 10 minutes of the game," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "Without him in the lineup, that's a pretty big hole."

The Panthers will look to improve on their 6-3-0 road record with games in Dallas and St. Louis this week before returning to Sunrise for a four-game homestand.

Stars: The Stars have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season after closing out a four-game road trip with defeats in Pittsburgh and Detroit. In each of those games, Dallas went into the third period tied, but could not muster any third-period goals while the Penguins scored twice for a 3-1 win and the Red Wings tallied three times for a 5-2 victory. Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow scored against the Wings, who peppered backup goalie Andrew Raycroft with 40 shots, keeping him winless in three starts.

"Two of the elite teams and I thought we were outplayed both nights in a row and we definitely have some work to do to get to this level," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "[Pittsburgh] kind of owned us in a few areas and those are areas that we can tidy up as coaches. We've learned coming out and playing, especially Pittsburgh and Detroit, some lessons now. And I'd rather learn them at 11-5 than at 5-11."

Kari Lehtonen, who leads the League with 11 wins, will be in net against Florida, sporting a .934 save percentage and a 2.20 goals-against average. He will try to get the Stars back on track as they play five of their next six games at home.

Who's Hot: Benn notched an assist on Eriksson's goal, giving him 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) over the last eight games, finding the scoresheet in all but one of those games. Eriksson himself has 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in the previous seven games. … For Florida, Fleischmann has 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in his last 10 games. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov had a five-game point streak snapped against the Flyers, but he still has points in eight of his last 10 games.

Injury Report: Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski broke his thumb when he was hit by a puck in the first period of Friday's loss in Pittsburgh and could be sidelined up to four weeks. There is some good news for the Stars though, as forward Steve Ott -- who hasn't played since Oct. 29 because of a hip injury -- could be activated from IR to play against the Panthers. Gulutzan told the Stars' official web site that Ott is "very, very close" to returning and that it will be a game-time decision. If Ott doesn't come back versus Florida, Gulutzan said Ott will play on Friday "for sure." … Florida forward Mikael Samuelsson remains out with a lower-body injury -- he hasn't played since being traded from Vancouver. Scottie Upshall (upper body) and Jack Skille (lower body) are both questionable for Tuesday's game. Upshall sat out the loss to Philadelphia and Skille left that game in the first period and did not return.   

Stat Pack: After opening the season by scoring on just three of their first 28 opportunities with the man advantage, the Stars have posted eight power-play goals in their last 28 chances. Since November 4, Dallas' power play has jumped from 25th in the League to ninth.

Puck Drop: There are a few things to watch for in Tuesday's contest between the Stars and Panthers. … Dallas has won seven straight games (all in regulation) against teams from the Southeast Division, outscoring their opponents 23-7. … Morrow is one point away from recording his 500th career NHL point. He would be the 10th player in Stars' history to register at least 500 points with the club. … Weiss will pass Robert Svehla for second most games played in Panthers' history with 574. Radek Dvorak is the leader with 613.

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