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Stars look to avoid rust, Avs' road success

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- By the time the Dallas Stars hit the ice on Friday night at the American Airlines Center, six days will have passed since their last game, a 3-1 win over the Devils last Saturday night.

After having two straight days off following the win over New Jersey, the Stars had a productive week of practice but are now ready to begin the month of November in positive fashion as they face the Colorado Avalanche.

"When you're on a good roll, you kind of want to keep things rolling," Dallas captain Brenden Morrow said. "In a perfect world we may have been playing another game a night or two later, but rest is a good thing too. We've had a couple of days of good practice here with pace. Hopefully that's got us sharp for the opening faceoff tonight."

Through 11 games, the Stars are 5-1-0 at home this year while the Avs are an impressive 6-1-0 away from the Pepsi Center.

"What we don't want to get into is the speed game with them. We want to keep pucks behind their 'D' and make sure they have to come 180 feet to get to us," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. "If we get into a back-and-forth game, they've got a real pace to their game. We don't want it to be a track meet. We want it to be a little bit of a grinding game, so we have to do certain things to make sure that happens."

Dallas will be without center Steve Ott, who is currently tied for third on the team with 8 points, as he is recovering from a lower-body injury. Ott logs some minutes on the Stars' penalty kill, a unit that could be crucial in Friday's game.

That's because Colorado heads into this contest with the second-best power play in the NHL, converting at a rate of 26.1 percent. The Avalanche are even better on the road, capitalizing at a League-best 38.1 percent. Given those facts, the Stars know they need to be at their best killing penalties. The Dallas PK is currently tied for 12th, killing off 86.5 percent of opposing power plays.

Center and faceoff specialist Vernon Fiddler is a key member of that unit and he's fully aware of what a solid group the Avs possess with the man advantage.

"They have some young, skilled guys and I think they move the puck around well. They get a lot of shots from the point," Fiddler said. "It's just a matter of staying out of the box first and foremost, and when we can get it out, get it out and try to get in front of as many shots as we can. Sometimes when your power play is clicking, you keep it simple and don't try to do too much. I think that's their case."

And when it comes to stopping or slowing down a team with such a potent power play, Gulutzan knows it boils down to a relatively simple formula.

"They put shots at the net. They go. They have tempo and they've got two real good units. They do a lot with speed, attack and shots," Gulutzan said. "We've got to stay out of the box as much as we can against them and we have to make sure that we're going four or even five units to kill that penalty off because our killing's got to be pacey, too."
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