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Wings go for seventh straight in Dallas

by Mike G. Morreale
The Dallas Stars receive a shot at redemption against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings tonight at American Airlines Arena (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, RIS, TSN2), where they have won five of their last six games.

The contest is just one of two scheduled this evening. In the other matchup, the top two picks in the 2008 Entry Draft will go head-to-head for the first and only time this season when No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning visit Los Angeles to face No. 2 selection Drew Doughty and the Kings.

Here's what to watch for:

Red Wings at Stars -- The Wings, second in the Western Conference with 29 wins and 63 points, scored an impressive 6-1 victory vs. the Stars last Thursday as six players lit the lamp, and Marian Hossa, Dan Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg each had a goal and an assist as the Wings won their fifth straight -- a streak they extended to a season-high six with a win against Buffalo on Saturday.

"We had a good, solid 60-minute game for once," Cleary said after Thursday's game. "All four lines did a good job cycling in the zone."

Cleary and Niklas Kronwall, who had a goal against Dallas, reached the 20-point plateau to give the Central Division-leading Wings 11 players with at least 20 points.

"That just shows how balanced this team is," said Hossa. "Not many teams are like ours. We know we've got lots of guys who can score. If we play well defensively, everybody, we're going to get goals. It's big for our hockey team."

The Stars are 13th in the West with 17 wins and 40 points, but have earned points in five of their last eight games (4-3-1). Following a slow start, Stars goalie Marty Turco has gone 8-4-2 over his last 14 games, with a 2.54 goals-against-average and a .902 save percentage.

The contest will be the third of four meetings between the clubs this season, with each team already having one win under its belt. The Stars scored a 3-1 triumph against Detroit on Dec. 12 in Dallas. The teams will conclude their regular-season slate Jan. 29 in Detroit. The game is the first of a three-game homestand for the Stars, who host the Sabres on Thursday and the Kings on Saturday.

Lightning at Kings -- The contest will mark the 24th all-time meeting between the clubs, with the Lightning holding a 14-6-3 lead in the series. Not only will it be the first time the teams have met in Los Angeles since Jan. 17, 2006, but it will mark the first meeting between forward Steven Stamkos and defenseman Drew Doughty, the first two picks of the 2008 Entry Draft.

It will be the first regular-season meeting of the first two picks of an Entry Draft in the season they were chosen since Oct. 22, 2003, when No. 1 pick Marc-Andre Fleury of Pittsburgh stopped 35 of 36 shots, including four from No. 2 pick Eric Staal of Carolina in a 1-1 tie.

"It is pretty good in a way," Doughty told the Kings' Web site. "I know that back in the day the NHL didn't have as many young guys as they do now. I think it's great that they are giving young guys opportunities to make the team. We play a big part of the team, and going into the game I guess there will be a little pressure on us. As I said before, we are going to go out there, play our games and try to win the game."

Doughty, the second pick in June, leads the League's rookies and the Kings in average ice time at 23:57 per game. He has played at least 20 minutes in 38 of 41 games and ranks third among first-year defensemen with 12 points. He's also first among rookies with 52 blocked shots.

"I think we are both really excited to play each other," Doughty said. "We don't really look at it like I went No. 2 and he went No.1 and it was a competition. We are just buddies are trying to get out there and do our best this season. Going into the game I am sure that we are going to have it in the back of our minds that people are going to be watching to see who is going to be the better prospect or whatever. But we are both just going to go out there, play our games and not worry about it."

Stamkos is tied for 16th among NHL rookies with 14 points, including 4 goals. He sports a minus-11 rating while averaging 13:08 of ice time, and leads all rookies with 84 shots on goal. It has been 12 games since Stamkos last logged 15 minutes, and he's scored just 1 goal in his last 17. He ranks 12th among rookies with 51 hits and is tied for fifth with 7 power-play points.

Stamkos and Doughty were teammates for Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championship in Prague, Czech Republic, where Stamkos had a goal and 6 points while Doughty recorded 4 assists to help Canada to the gold medal.

The Lightning will be playing their fourth of six consecutive games away from the St. Pete Times Forum tonight; they're 2-1-0 so far. The trip will span more than 10 days and visit three different time zones. The Lightning are 12th in the Eastern Conference with 12 wins and 34 points, while the Kings are 14th in the Western Conference with 17 wins and 40 points. Tampa is 10-1-2 all time in Los Angeles, and unbeaten in their last seven (5-0-2) in Los Angeles.
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