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Stars start Western swing in Anaheim

by Frank Mentesana

STARS (5-1-0) at DUCKS (4-1-0)

TV: NHLN-Canada, FS-Southwest, PRIME (HD)

Season series: It's the first of six matchups between the Pacific Division rivals. Their last four meetings of the 2010-11 season were decided by one goal, as the Ducks took four of six against the Stars last season, winning two in overtime. Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky topped all players with 5 goals, 11 points and a plus-8 rating. Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan each recorded 4 goals and 4 assists for the Ducks, while Mike Ribeiro and Loui Eriksson notched six points each to lead Dallas.

Big Story: Both teams are off to fast starts and bring a four-game winning streak into Friday's game. After a season-opening loss to the Sabres in Europe, the Ducks notched two wins behind Jonas Hiller's outstanding play and then two more this past Sunday and Monday as their first line finally found the scoresheet. Dallas began a four-game road trip by completing a home-and-home sweep of winless Columbus. The Stars went home for an optional skate on Wednesday and a practice on Thursday before flying to the West Coast for matchups with three divisional opponents: the Ducks, Kings and Coyotes. The optional skate is part of new coach Glen Gulutzan's outlook on the game.

"We have to maximize our rest days too," Gulutzan told the team's Web site. "We think rest is as important as practice and when we practice, we practice hard and when we have days off, we have days off."

Team Scope:

Stars: Dallas was outshot 40-18 on Tuesday but hung on for a 3-2 win. It was their fourth one-goal victory, which ties for the League lead. The difference in those games has been goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who has won all five of his starts. Lehtonen made 38 saves on Tuesday, and has stopped 30 or more shots in four of his five starts. The 27-year-old Finn has a 1.58 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage as he looks for the first six-game winning streak of his career.

"I'm just trying to be patient," Lehtonen said. "I think that's the biggest thing. It went good, and you have to be happy about it. When things are going well, of course it feels fun, and it's nice to play. You don't want to say that it gets easier, but you get lucky sometimes when things are going well. You have to keep working and hoping that it stays the same way."

Jamie Benn, who scored an amazing goal in Columbus, says the goaltender has been the Stars' best player.

"He's the last line of defense and he's been our first star in every game," Benn said.

Ducks: After a slow start, the Ducks' big guns are starting to fire. Bobby Ryan scored twice and had an assist in Sunday's 4-2 win against the Blues, and Teemu Selanne had his first two goals of the season in Monday's 3-2 victory in San Jose. Corey Perry notched the game-winner in the third period in both games.

"I'm always playing with great players," Selanne said. "They have helped me a lot. I've tried to do my job and enjoy this."

Backup goaltender Dan Ellis stole the show Monday in his first start of the season. After Hiller was outstanding in his first four starts, Ellis made 41 saves -- 15 in the third period alone -- to preserve the victory.

Who's Hot: For Dallas, Steve Ott is on a five-game point streak (2 goals, 3 assists) and Sheldon Souray has a point in every game but one this season. …Selanne has three points over the last games. Hiller has stopped 73 of the last 76 shots he has faced.

Injury Report: Kurtis Foster (left thigh) is day-to-day for the Ducks, who have two players on IR for the next couple of months, Jason Blake (left wrist surgery) and Matt Smaby (hand). In Monday's game, Francois Beauchemin, who wears a visor, took a Dan Boyle slap shot near his left eye, but returned after the wound was stitched. … The Stars are completely healthy.

Stat Pack: Dallas has already taken four too-many-men penalties on the young season, but they have excelled on the penalty-kill, thwarting 29 of 33 opponents' power plays. ... At 4-1-0, this is the Ducks' best start since they went 12-0-4 in 2006-07, a season that ended with the only Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Puck Drop: After scoring a pair against the Sharks, Selanne has 639 career goals, one shy of Dave Andreychuk for 13th place on the all-time list. He also scored his 237th career power-play goal, tying him with Brendan Shanahan for fifth all-time.

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