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Stars search for scoring tough against Sharks

by Steve Hunt
FRISCO, Texas – It has been 147:19 since the Dallas Stars last found the back of the net, a second-period tally by captain Brenden Morrow at 12:11 of the second period in a 5-2 loss at Detroit seven days ago.
In the two games since their last tally, the Stars have been outscored by a combined 9-0, including a 6-0 loss Tuesday to Florida at American Airlines Center and a 3-0 blanking Friday against Colorado at the Pepsi Center, a setback which ran the current Dallas losing streak to four games.
But the Stars get little time to regroup as tonight they will host Pacific Division rival San Jose, a team that hasn’t played since Thursday night, when they handed the Red Wings a 5-2 defeat at HP Pavilion.
And to put their run of current consecutive games without a goal in proper perspective, some 961 games have passed since the last time it happened to Dallas. That was in January 1999, a team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup just a few months later.
Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan is clearly concerned about his club’s current lack of scoring but admits he is adhering to a simple approach to make that lack of offensive punch a thing of the past.
“Keep going to the net. Keep putting pucks on net,” Gulutzan said. “It happens but we do need to shoot the puck more. We got outplayed a little bit [against Colorado]. We got outchanced.”
One change the Stars will make for tonight will be in goal where backup netminder Andrew Raycroft will get the start in place of Kari Lehtonen. Raycroft is 0-3-0 this season. His three starts have all come in the final game of back-to-backs and have all been on the road.

Dating back to last season, he has lost nine straight starts. His last win for Dallas came Jan. 9, 2011 at Minnesota and his last home win was on Dec. 10, 2010 against Carolina. Still, the Stars feel good about putting him in against the Sharks, possibly as a way to turn things around.
“Yeah, [Raycroft]’s going tonight. That kind of was our plan,” Gulutzan said. “We talked about it on the way home. We think with our schedule it’s probably the right call. He hasn’t had a home game since I don’t know when. It’ll be good to get him on the ice at home and turn this thing around.”

Besides their current lack of scoring, another area of fairly big concern for the Stars is the huge differential between how many penalties Dallas has been committing compared to how many they’ve been drawing during their current four-game losing skid.
During this stretch, the Stars have put the opposition on the power play 18 times while they’ve had the man advantage only six times in the last four contests, a trend that their head coach defensively doesn’t want to see continue heading forward.
“Just the differential is a little bit of a concern. I think it is a byproduct of we’ve been outworked the last four, five games and then you end up taking penalties,” Gulutzan said.

Contrast Dallas’ current offensive woes with how the Sharks have been playing in their last six games, where they are 4-1-1. San Jose is averaging three goals per game during that span and has netted at least four goals in half of those contests, including five just two days ago in their win against the Red Wings.
And it’s the Sharks’ top two lines that the Stars will have to mostly concern themselves with. Their top trio of Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski lead the way with 45 points but the second line of Ryan Clowe, Patrick Marleau and newcomer Martin Havlat, a group that has 34 points, has also made their share of contributions.
Gulutzan plans to match up his second line of Jamie Benn, Steve Ott and Loui Eriksson against the Sharks’ top group as a way to minimize how much damage they can do.

“Those elite players create challenges for you every night and they’re big,” he said. “Joe [Thornton]’s big. I think tonight [Benn] will match up there. It’s going to be a good test for him and [Ott]. It’ll be a good game for them.”
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