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Stars-Wild Preview

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Stars-Wild Preview

GAME: Dallas Stars (27-12-2) at Minnesota Wild (20-18-4).

TIME: Monday, 8 p.m. EST.

Come-from-behind victories have been the standard lately for the Dallas Stars.

The Stars look to make it four straight wins for the first time in nearly a month when they face off against the Minnesota Wild.

Dallas got goals from Jere Lehtinen, Niko Kapanen and Mathias Tjarnqvist in a 2:27 span of the third period in a 6-3 win Sunday over the Detroit Red Wings, ending a nine-game winless streak against the top team in the Western Conference.

The Stars scored three times in the second period to erase a 3-0 deficit.

"Our power play got us back into the game," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "And we pushed in the third and got the ones we needed."

That win came after Dallas rallied from three goals down in a 4-3 Friday over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The Stars began their winning streak Wednesday with three third-period tallies in a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

The streak is the Stars' longest since a five-game run from Nov. 26-Dec. 10 and has pushed Dallas into a tie with the Los Angeles Kings atop the Pacific Division.

The Stars have also been getting stellar play from backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, who replaced starter and Canadian Olympic selection Marty Turco in the wins over the Mighty Ducks and Red Wings.

Hedberg stopped all 12 shots his faced after replacing Turco 92 seconds into the second period of the win over Detroit.

"I felt pretty good," Hedberg said. "Once you get in the playing mode, it's easier. The guys really stepped up from the moment I came in."

He played 45 minutes in relief of Turco against Anaheim, turning aside all 16 shots he faced. Hedberg, though is 0-1-3 in five career appearances, including four starts, against the Wild.

With eight wins in 11 games, the Wild have moved over the .500 mark and closer to the final Western Conference playoff spot. The Wild trail the Colorado Avalanche by five points for the last playoff berth.

One reason for Minnesota's improved play has been goaltender and former Star Manny Fernandez. He stopped 22 shots for his sixth straight win in the Wild's 4-1 victory Saturday over Anaheim.

The six straight wins tied a career-high from Dec. 17, 2001, to Jan. 10, 2002, and from Oct. 11-29, 2002. He also lowered his goals-against average to 1.98 and boosted his save percentage to .932, both of which lead league.

"Right now, we are on a good roll," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said following the win. "We still had a couple of guys who could have played better, but as a whole I thought we played very well."

Todd White had a goal and an assist in the win over Anaheim, extending his home goal-scoring streak to three games. He has just two goals in seven career games against Dallas.

Minnesota was averaging a meager 2.6 goals per game before the surge, but has scored 3.5 goals a game in its last 11 contests.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 8): Stars - 56 points, 1st place (tied), Pacific Division. Wild - 44 points, 5th place, 11 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Stars - Lehtinen, 22 goals; Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov, 26 assists; Modano, 42 points; Steve Ott, 91 PIM. Wild - Brian Rolston, 18 goals, 24 assists and 42 points; Derek Boogaard, 70 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 8): Stars - Power play: 16.8 percent (45 for 267), 19th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84 percent (220 for 262), tied for 9th. Wild - Power play: 18.5 percent (43 for 232), 11th. Penalty killing: 89.1 percent (204 for 229), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Stars - Turco (20-11-2, 3 SO, 2.57 GAA); Hedberg (7-1-0, 0, 2.77). Wild - Fernandez (15-5-3, 1, 1.98); Dwayne Roloson (5-13-1, 1, 2.83).

SEASON SERIES: Wild, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 19; Wild, 2-1. White and Marian Gaborik scored less than four minutes apart in the third period while Lehtinen scored the only goal for Dallas.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Stars - 14-4-1 on the road; Wild - 12-7-1 at home.


Associated Press
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