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Struggling Stars play host to Red Wings

by Mike G. Morreale
RED WINGS (24-16-6) at STARS (19-17-11)

Last 10 -- Detroit 6-3-1; Dallas 3-7-0

Season series --
This is the fourth and final meeting between the clubs this season. The Stars have won two of the previous three meetings, including a 4-3 decision on Dec. 19 in Dallas. They also won 3-1 on Nov. 18 and Detroit earned a 4-1 victory on Nov. 30. Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was in net for all three games while Marty Turco played in two -- winning the most recent contest. The Wings have won the last four meetings in Dallas.

Big Story --
It can't get much worse for the Stars. The club has yet to win more than two games in a row, has lost six of seven and is 1-9-3 in its last 13 road games. Fortunately, the club returns to the American Airlines Center, where it's 12-5-5, to play Detroit. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk admitted the front office has considered possible moves, but that the team is built on its current budget.

"It's true that we have the lowest-paid defense in the NHL, but if you look at the people we have, I do believe we can win with them," Nieuwendyk said. "We have younger players who are going to be naturally lower-paid, but I also believe those players are improving.

"I have been a bit disappointed in some of the older guys, and have talked to them and asked them to look in the mirror and bring more and take the leadership role. I think it really does come down to determination, and we have had great examples of that from players like Stephane Robidas or Jere Lehtinen, and we need that from everybody on a more consistent basis."

Team Scope:

Red Wings --
Howard has emerged as a strong candidate for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the League's best rookie. The Detroit netminder ranks in the top 10 in the League in goals-against average (2.17) and save percentage (.928). Ironically, the last three players from Detroit to win the Calder were all goalies -- Terry Sawchuk in 1951, Glenn Hall in '56 and Roger Crozier in '65.

Howard has made 10 straight starts and has started in 25 of the Wings' last 32 games.

"I've gotten the chance and I'm trying to make the most of the opportunity, giving the guys a chance to win, trying to outplay the other goalie," Howard said. "As quickly as things have happened, they can go away just as fast. I try not to think about anything else except doing my job."

Stars --
The Stars recalled left wing Fabian Brunnstrom from their American Hockey League affiliate in Texas on Wednesday with the hope of sparking an offense that had produced just 10 goals in 6 games (1.66 goals-per game). Brunnstrom, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound left wing, saw 13:17 of ice time in a 5-3 loss to Montreal on Thursday. He scored one goal and 5 points in six games for Texas.

In 24 games for Dallas this season, Brunnstrom has one goal and six assists. Brunnstrom played in 55 games for Dallas as a rookie in 2008-09, notching 17 goals and 29 points. He was signed as a free agent in May 2008.

Who's Hot --
Wings center Darren Helm, who plays on a line with Kris Draper and Patrick Eaves, has five goals in his last seven games and has spearheaded the club's penalty-killing improvement. The Wings are 16th in the League in penalty-killing with an 81.6 percent efficiency.

Injury Report --
Detroit is getting healthier, but key players will remain sidelined against Dallas, including forwards Johan Franzen (knee), Jason Williams (broken leg) and Tomas Holmstrom (broken foot) and defenseman Niklas Kronwall (knee). … Dallas is without center Mike Ribeiro (throat) and defenseman Nicklas Grossman (lower body).

Stat Pack --
Stars center Mike Modano played in his 1,434th career NHL game. Lehtinen has 266 career assists -- 10th on the franchise's all-time list in assists.

Puck Drop --
The Wings were happy to have defenseman Jonathan Ericsson back in the lineup in a victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Ericsson had missed the previous 12 games with a bruised left kneecap. He saw a little over 15 minutes of ice time alongside usual partner Brett Lebda.

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