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Stars make first trip of the season to Phoenix

by John Kreiser /

STARS (17-9-2) at COYOTES (13-8-6)

TV -- TXA 21 (HD); FS-Arizona (HD)

Last 10 -- Dallas 7-2-1; Phoenix 6-3-1

Season series -- The Stars are making their first of three visits to the desert for the second meeting of the season between the Pacific Division rivals. Dallas won the first meeting 6-3 on Nov. 5 at the American Airlines Center. Phoenix has won four of the last five meetings at home.

Big story -- The Stars are one of the NHL's early surprises -- after missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, they're on top of the Pacific Division after Friday night's 2-1 shootout victory against Carolina in Dallas. The Stars are much better at home than on the road -- but the Coyotes are just 5-4-4 at Arena and are coming off a 3-2 home loss to Minnesota on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Dallas -- With goaltender Kari Lehtonen out with back spasms, the Stars got a lift from backup Andrew Raycroft on Friday. Raycroft stopped 22 shots through 65 minutes, then foiled all three Carolina shootout tries in a 2-1 victory.

His play left coach Marc Crawford gushing.

"Andrew Raycroft was just outstanding," Crawford said. "Tonight, we only needed the one goal, so that's great when you've got your goaltender playing as well as Andrew Raycroft played for us. It's a huge two points."

Phoenix -- The Coyotes got an earful from coach Dave Tippett on Friday after a less-than-satisfying performance in the loss to Minnesota.

"We just didn't have enough push," Tippett told the media. "And some of that, you really have to look at the game that Minnesota played last night. They played a very strong game. They were committed in all areas. It was a game very similar to what you usually see our team play. In that sense, the effort was challenged and we didn't come up with the extra effort and they did."

Who's hot -- Dallas' James Neal has goals in back-to-back games and is 7-6-13 in his last 13 games. Brad Richards has 16 points in his last 14 games. He's also 3-for-5 in shootouts. … Phoenix forward Taylor Pyatt had both of the Coyotes' goals on Wednesday and has five in his last eight games.

Injury report -- Lehtonen is missing his third consecutive game with back spasms. Dallas put center Toby Petersen on IR this week with a hand injury; he joins defenseman Marc Fistric (groin). … The Coyotes are healthy.

Stat pack -- Dallas has won at least one road game against the Coyotes franchise since 1995-96. … The Coyotes have allowed just 15 first-period goals in their 27 games, tied with Boston for the second-fewest in the NHL. But they've scored only 17 times in the opening period -- only three teams have fewer first-period goals.

Puck drop -- One player the Coyotes won't have to worry about is forward Jere Lehtinen, who announced his retirement this week at age 37 after 14 seasons in the NHL. Six of those seasons were spent playing for Tippett when he coached in Dallas.

"Jere Lehtinen is one of the best two-way players to ever play the game," Tippett told the Coyotes' website when asked for his thoughts on Lehtinen. "That goes without saying with his three Selke Trophies, but it's amazing. As a coach, and I was there six years, you watch video, and when you're teaching your team how you want to play and how you want to react in certain situations, it is unbelievable when you go through a tape with Jere Lehtinen in it how many times he does things right. You could do a teaching tape (based) on the way he plays the game."

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