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Stars in search of key points against Panthers

by Mike Battaglino

STARS (38-28-11) at PANTHERS (27-43-8)


Last 10: Dallas 6-4-0; Florida 2-8-0

Season series: Tim Thomas was the goaltender for the Florida Panthers when they defeated the Dallas Stars 4-2 in the season opener. Thomas is now the backup goalie for the Stars after he was traded to Dallas following Florida's acquisition of Roberto Luongo prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.

Big story: The Stars control their destiny with five games remaining. Dallas holds a one-point lead over the Phoenix Coyotes for the second Western Conference wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with this game in hand against the 29th place team in the NHL standings.

It ends a five-game road trip among a stretch of four games in five days.

"This is a tough turnover we've got coming," coach Lindy Ruff told Fox Sports Southwest. "Playing at 5 o'clock [Sunday] knowing that we have a lot of games in a few days. You have to get all the points you can when you can get them."

Team Scope:

Stars: Goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves in a 5-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and is likely to play again instead of Thomas.

"We'll have that discussion [Saturday night]," Ruff said.

Captain Jamie Benn had three-first period points Saturday and Dallas is 12-3-0 when he has multiple points. He and Tyler Seguin combined for five points and have 153 this season.

"I think we try to say that every game, that we want to try to take it over," Seguin said. "Pretty much all our wins have been a team effort, especially as of late. These are huge games and huge points and everyone is stepping up right now."

Panthers: Luongo returned to play Friday after missing three games with a concussion. He made 15 saves in a 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.

Luongo is 4-6-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average for the Panthers. Thomas was 16-20-3 with a 2.87 GAA.

"I'm not worried about it, to be honest. I just want to focus on my game and feel good out there, and give the boys a chance to win," Luongo told the Sun Sentinel. "Probably that game will mean more to him."

The Panthers have lost a season-high five games in a row in regulation, and eight of nine. They have scored 12 goals in the nine games.

Who's hot: Seguin had a goal and an assist Saturday and has 23 points in 18 games since March 1. Benn has 20 points in those 18 games. Forward Ryan Garbutt has seven points in his past six games. Forward Vernon Fiddler has six in six. Lehtonen is 6-3-0 since returning from a concussion March 18. … Panthers forward Brandon Pirri has a three-game point streak and 10 points in his past 14 games.

Injury report: Stars forward Erik Cole (upper body) returned to play Saturday after missing seven games. Forward Ray Whitney (lower body) did not. Forward Aaron Rome (lower body) is out. … Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau (concussion) practiced Friday and may play. Forward Aleksander Barkov (knee) skated for the first time since he last played in the NHL Feb. 7.

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