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Stars look to right ship at home vs. Panthers

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- After ending last week's road trip with back-to-back losses, the Dallas Stars return to the ice tonight looking to return to the win column against the Florida Panthers at the American Airlines Center, a building they are 6-1-0 in so far this season.

However, the Stars (11-5-0), who continue to lead the Pacific Division with 22 points, will be without gritty center Steve Ott, who continues to be bothered by a hip pointer and will miss a sixth consecutive game.

Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan had termed Ott a game-time decision after practice on Monday, but after the morning skate, it was clear he wouldn't play.

"Otter's not going tonight. He'll be ready for Friday," Gulutzan said. "He's pleading his case to go tonight but it's better for us long-term than to rush him back when he's about 85 percent."

In his absence, Adam Burish will continue to skate on the Stars' second line alongside captain Brenden Morrow and center Mike Ribeiro, a role he has held since Ott last played Oct. 29 against the Devils.

The Stars have won two straight at home this season and have fallen only once in their own arena, a 5-3 loss to the Kings back on Oct. 27. And given they come off consecutive road losses to the Red Wings and Penguins, it's definitely good to be back on their home ice.

"That road trip started off real good and then, the last two games didn't go our way. It's always good to get back here and get settled," Gulutzan said. "It was good that we had the Sunday off when we came back. I think we had a good day off and a good practice yesterday and we're ready to go here tonight."

Florida comes into this one off a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday night and the Panthers are just 2-2-3 at home so far this season. But on the road, it's a different story, as Kevin Dineen's club is 6-3-0, tying them for most road wins in the League.

Dallas defenseman Nicklas Grossman sees a much improved Florida team and expects a real battle tonight in the Lone Star State.

"I think like every game, it's going to be a tough game. They're looking real good this year, especially with the new additions they made on the back there and the recent trade they had," Grossman said. "They have a good team, no question about it. They've got lots of speed, lots of skill guys. We've got to expect a hungry team coming in, so we've got to be ready."

Tonight's game will be the first for Stars third-line winger Radek Dvorak since coming over from Florida in the offseason. The veteran forward did say it might be a bit weird to face one of his former clubs, but added his focus is where it needs to be.

"It's just another game for us. Obviously, I spent a lot of time in Florida but the most important thing is we have to be sure we go about our game tonight no matter who we play," Dvorak said. "We just need a couple of points tonight and we have to do our best to achieve that."
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