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Stars' task is to end Capitals' home surge

by Brian Hunter
STARS (28-24-12) at CAPITALS (44-13-8)

Last 10: Dallas 4-5-1; Washington 7-1-2

Season series: This is the only meeting of the 2009-10 season between these teams. Their last matchup, way back on Oct. 25, 2008, was a good one -- Alexander Semin scored 2:17 into overtime to give Washington a thrilling 6-5 win in Dallas. Mike Modano had forced the extra period by scoring with less than a minute left in regulation.

Big story: The Capitals will attempt to extend a franchise record with their 14th straight victory at the Verizon Center. If he gets the start, goalie Jose Theodore will be looking for his 15th consecutive decision without a regulation loss (12-0-2). The Stars are less interested in playing spoiler than just getting two points to climb closer to eighth in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Six points separate Dallas from a playoff berth after Detroit won in Chicago on Sunday. The Stars let an opportunity slip away Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh, where they led the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins 3-1 early in the second period. The home team rallied to tie and then a guy by the name of Sidney Crosby scored his League-leading 43rd and 44th goals to turn the game around. The Stars lost 6-3.

"When you have hockey sense like he has, you can play him in any situation, and he's going to excel at it," said captain Brenden Morrow, a teammate of Sid the Kid on Team Canada. "You're not going to find a guy with more hockey sense and awareness of the ice. When you got guys like Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin, all they need is one sniff of a turnover and they can really turn a game around. Everything that Pittsburgh got, we gave them the opportunities and they made the most of them."

The moves Washington made at the trade deadline have paid immediate dividends. After Scott Walker scored twice in the third period against the Lightning, including the game-winner, Eric Belanger chipped in the insurance goal Saturday in a 2-0 win over the Rangers. Washington coach Bruce Boudreau was thrilled with the effort turned in by Theodore, who stopped 30 shots for his first shutout of the season.

"I thought he was great," Boudreau said. "I thought he was by far our best player. … Any time they were putting pressure on us, Jose would get it and he would stop it and he would not let a rebound go tonight and that's, I think, the key to his game. He's brimming with confidence and we hope he can keep it."

Who's hot:
Mike Ribeiro has five goals and three assists in six games for the Stars since returning from a tracheotomy. … Capitals defenseman Mike Green saw his nine-game points streak end Saturday despite three shots and 26:42 of ice time. Green had three goals and 10 assists over that span.

Injury report:
Dallas forward Tom Wandell is out for the season following left knee surgery, while forward Brian Sutherby is on injured reserve with a sprained shoulder. … Washington forward Tyler Sloan is questionable for Monday with flu-like symptoms. Defenseman Milan Jurcina, recently reacquired, needs sports hernia surgery and will be sidelined indefinitely.

Stat pack:
Stars goalie Marty Turco is 3-0-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average in five career appearances against the Capitals. … Washington leads the League with 257 goals and would need to score 71 times in its final 17 games in order to average four goals a game for the season.

Puck drop:
Alex Ovechkin has gone a season-high six straight games without a goal, something that must concern Dallas coach Marc Crawford and his troops. Washington keeps winning anyway, and Ovi is liable to erupt at any time.

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