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Stars pay first visit of season to Columbus

by John Kreiser
STARS (19-14-11) at BLUE JACKETS (17-20-9)

Last 10 -- Dallas 5-5-0; Columbus 3-5-2

Season series -- It's the third meeting of the season between the Western Conference rivals, but the first at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets won 4-1 at American Airlines Center on Nov. 19, and the Stars won 3-1 on Dec. 23.

Big story -- Things are looking up for the Blue Jackets, who come home after a two-game sweep in Alberta that wiped away the bad taste of a 7-3 blowout in Vancouver -- their 13th consecutive road loss. The Stars aren't a whole let better -- they're 11th in the West and have been consistent only in their inconsistency. Friday night's 4-3 win over the Islanders ended a three-game losing streak

Team Scope:

Stars -- The home win over the New York Islanders was enormous for the Stars, who have struggled on the road and are opening a three-game stretch away from AmericanAirlinesCenter. Dallas is 1-6-3 in its last 10 road games and 7-9-6 overall.

"We've got to do the same as we do in this building," said forward Loui Eriksson, who scored his 18th goal to tie James for the team lead. "It's not easy for us to get points now. We've got to dig in and win some games."

Blue Jackets -- Columbus entered the weekend 10 points out of the final playoff berth in the Western Conference. But back-to-back wins at Edmonton and Calgary have coach Ken Hitchcock thinking his team can make a push and make the playoffs for the second straight season.

"We're starting to play like last year," Hitchcock said. "You never know, other teams have come from far back. If we can keep playing well and get this thing to .500 then we have the big home schedule in February, March, and April, we can still do some damage."

Who's hot -- Dallas' Loui Eriksson is 5-2-7 in his last five games and has points in 11 of his last 12 games. Linemate Brad Richards is 3-5-8 in five games. …For Columbus, Raffi Torres is 2-2-4 in his last four games and Antoine Vermette went 2-3-5 during three-game trip.

Injury report -- Dallas is without two regulars, both of whom were injured Wednesday in New York. Center Mike Ribeiro will miss 4-6 weeks with a throat laceration after taking a stick across the throat, and defenseman Nicklas Grossman went on IR with an upper-body injury. … Columbus forward Fredrik Modin sat out Friday's game with a lower-body injury. Forward Derek Dorsett (hand) and defenseman Mark Methot (shoulder) and Rostislav Klesla (groin) are not ready to return.

Stat pack -- The Stars have fared well at Nationwide Arena over the years. They have won their last four visits and are 12-2-2 all-time at Columbus. … Two Jackets hit milestones on Friday: Mathieu Garon earned his 100th NHL win and Antoine Vermette's game-winner was his 100th NHL goal. Rick Nash leads the Blue Jackets with 19 goals but hasn't scored in eight games. He does have five assists in six games.

Puck drop -- This is a big game for the Jackets, who are making a pit stop before heading to St. Louis and Chicago and play five of their next seven on the road. The back-to-back wins should get rid of the fog of losing that's enveloped the Jackets, but they need to build on those victories.

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