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Surging Stars visit flickering Flames

by Sergei J. Feldman /
STARS (28-13-5) at FLAMES (20-21-6)

TV -- FS-Southwest (HD), SNET-West (HD)

Last 10 -- Dallas 7-2-1; Calgary 4-3-3

Season series -- This is the second of four meetings between the two Western Conference foes. Calgary got the better of the Stars in the first go-around in late December with a 3-2 shootout win on Dec. 23. Alex Tanguay scored the tying goal late in regulation and added the lone shootout goal.

Big story -- The Stars and Flames are two teams heading in opposite directions. After Thursday night's 4-2 win at Edmonton, the Stars sit atop the Pacific Division and are riding a franchise-record eight-game road winning streak. Meanwhile, the Flames are stuck in 14th place bottom of the Western Conference standings and are coming off a 6-0 home loss to Minnesota on Wednesday.

Team scope:

Stars -- The surprising Stars have had a great start to 2011 and have done almost nothing but win. Since defeating St. Louis to start the month of January, the Stars have gone 7-0-1 prior to this match against the Flames. Thursday night's win at Edmonton was the perfect start to a current three-game road trip against Western Canada.

The hero on Thursday was goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who made 30 saves and improved to 6-0-1 in his last seven games.

"He has been there to backstop us the whole year," forward Jamie Benn said. "He's a great goalie and he definitely did a helluva job tonight."

Flames -- After going five consecutive games earning at least one point, the Flames stumbled badly against the Wild. This, after recent remarks of optimism from various Flames players stating that the playoffs were in reach. Captain Jarome Iginla said, "If you look at it, yeah, there's a lot of teams," acknowledging many teams out there to leapfrog. "But if we take care of ours, we can climb."

Naturally, the optimism dwindled after the tough loss. "It was one of those games we never had our 'A' game here tonight, bottom line," coach Brent Sutter said.

Who's hot -- Lehtonen is 6-0-1 in his last seven games, allowing two goals or less in each game. Benn has a career-best five-game points streak, and James Neal has goals in six of his last eight games. Mike Ribeiro, who scored a goal Thursday, has points in his last 10 games.

Injury report -- Calgary's Mikael Backlund (leg) didn't practice Thursday. Steve Staios (ribs) is still out and Tom Kostopoulos will serve the last of a six-game suspension. … Dallas is still without forward defenseman Matt Niskanen (hand).

Stat pack -- The win at Edmonton snapped Dallas' team record for longest winning streak on the road. The Stars had won seven in a row three times, the last in November-December of 2001.

Puck drop -- The Stars aren't doing anything spectacular to win on the road. They're playing good, simple road hockey, getting good goaltending and making the most of their scoring chances.

The fact that Lehtonen has been superb helps a lot, too.

"We're keeping it simple and playing a good team game," Benn said. "That's what you have to do on the road, and it's paying off. I don't think we played our best game, but we got a big two points. We did enough to win."

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