The Dallas Stars have returned home after a successful three-game road trip against the Pacific Division, and they’d now like to head into the Olympic break with a second win in five days against the Phoenix Coyotes.
In a matchup of two teams emerging as contenders for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, the Stars host the Coyotes on Saturday night.
Despite a 3-1 loss to the Stars on Tuesday, the Coyotes (27-20-10) have won two of three and are playing some solid defensive hockey. They’ve allowed seven goals in their last five games, getting a shutout each from Thomas Greiss and starter Mike Smith.
In Friday’s 2-0 win over Chicago, Phoenix became the first team to shut out the Blackhawks in the regular season since Feb. 25, 2012. They’re also the first Pacific team to beat the Blackhawks in regulation this season in 21 tries, but defenseman Keith Yandle was already looking forward to Dallas after the game.
"We need that win desperately," Yandle said. "We need it bad, so I think everybody knows obviously it’s a big win tonight, but for us to be feeling good about ourselves and feeling good about where we’re at, we’ve got to have a good game tomorrow night in Dallas."
Yandle and Radim Vrbata scored while Antoine Vermette added an assist to extend his point streak to nine games.
The Stars (26-21-10) followed up the win at Phoenix with a 2-1 overtime loss at San Jose on Wednesday, but they still secured five road points against potential playoff teams from the West.
"It was a good game," coach Lindy Ruff told the team’s official website. "We fell behind but we played a real good third period. We had to kill a couple of penalties and I thought we dominated on the PK. We have to be happy getting five of six (points). The PK was fabulous. They were relentless and really working."
That penalty kill has thwarted 25 of 28 chances in the last 10 games and went 8 for 8 on the recent trip as they allowed just two regulation goals to Anaheim, Phoenix and San Jose.
Still, the Stars would like to see some offense when they need to play beyond regulation. In their 14 overtime games, they’ve scored one goal and gone 4-0-10, with eight straight ending in an overtime or shootout loss.
"We were lucky to get a point out of it," forward Vernon Fiddler said. "It would have been nice to get two, but they made a play and we didn’t. … We need to find a way to get these extra points. They add up at the end of the year."
Valeri Nichushkin scored with Trevor Daley and Tyler Seguin assisting, and Kari Lehtonen made 19 saves. Seguin’s assist extended his point streak to seven games, during which he’s recorded 11 points.
Lehtonen helped the team to at least a point for the sixth time in seven starts, a 4-1-2 stretch over which he’s posted a 1.57 goals-against average. He’s 8-3-4 with a 2.19 GAA in 16 career starts against the Coyotes.
Smith made 30 saves against Chicago to earn his second shutout of the season, and he’s expected to start again Saturday. After allowing 15 goals in four games, he’s yielded three in his last three starts.
Jamie Benn, second on the Stars behind Seguin with 50 points, had his five-game goal-scoring streak snapped Tuesday against Phoenix, and struggling against the Coyotes is nothing new. Benn has gone seven straight games in the series without a point.
Coyotes center Martin Hanzal missed Friday’s game due to an illness, but traveled with the team and could play Saturday.