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Surging Stars aim to ground Jets

by John Kreiser
STARS (39-26-5) at JETS (32-29-8)


Last 10: Dallas 9-0-1; Winnipeg 5-3-2

Season Series: It's the only meeting of the season between the Stars and the former Atlanta Thrashers, and the first visit by Dallas to Winnipeg since 1996. The Stars routed the Thrashers 6-1 in Dallas in the last meeting between the two franchises.

Big Story: Can anyone cool off the red-hot Stars, who improved to 10-0-1 in their last 11 games by blanking the Wild 1-0 in Minnesota on Tuesday? The Jets had better find an answer if they hope to make the playoffs -- they've been off since Friday and have dropped to 10th in the East, six points behind eighth-place Washington.

Team Scope:

Stars: Dallas hasn't been winning pretty, but the Stars are concerned about standings points rather than style points. They slogged their way past the struggling Wild on Tuesday night thanks to 25 saves by Kari Lehtonen and a third-period goal by Jamie Benn, who converted a deflected pass into the only tally of the night.

"In the end, we got two points and that's what we came here for," Benn said. "We're not trying to make it pretty out there. We're trying to keep it ugly, play a simple game and that's why we're successful right now."

Jets: The good news for the Jets is that the four-day break after back-to-back games at Vancouver and Calgary last week provided a rare breather. The bad news is that the teams the Jets are battling in the playoff chase kept putting up points -- especially the Caps, who've won four in a row.

But overall, coach Claude Noel said, the break has been a positive as his team enters a three-game homestand.

"I think it's been good for us," Noel said. "We may lose a bit of rhythm but I think it'll be good because it seems that it's been really busy for us and really constant. The break has been a catch your breath, a breath of fresh air for us."

Who's Hot: Lehtonen has back-to-back shutouts and has allowed just six goals in winning his last five starts. He's 8-0-1 in his last nine games. … Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg's leader with 56 points, has goals in each of his last four games. Evander Kane has eight goals and eight assists in the past 11 games.

Injury Report: Dallas forward Radek Dvorak and defenseman Sheldon Souray both missed Tuesday's game with lower-body injuries. … Jets defensemen Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien are dealing with lower-body injuries, though Noel says Byfuglien might be ready to face the Stars.

Stat Pack: Dallas' streak of getting a point in 11 straight games is the longest for the Stars since a 12-game streak in December 2002 and January 2003. … The Jets hope the move from Atlanta to Winnipeg will change its fortunes against Dallas -- the Stars were 11-1-0-1 against the Thrashers and outscored them 45-28.

Puck Drop: With a 21-10-4 mark at the MTS Centre, the Jets have one of the NHL's toughest home teams. But Noel has tried to downplay the home/road difference.

"At this time of the year I don't think it matters, the guys just want to play," Noel told the team's website. "I think we'd like to re-play those games on the road. We're more comfortable at home there's no question but I think we're more focused on winning games."

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