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27-23-2

Coyotes-Stars Preview

AP - Sports

The Phoenix Coyotes are riding high after defeating two of the Western Conference's elite clubs.

The Dallas Stars' schedule may give them a chance to string some wins together.

The Coyotes attempt to match their longest overall winning streak of the season and snap a long road slide when they face the Stars on Tuesday night.

Phoenix (24-21-8) went 3-5-4 last month, but has played much better since the calendar flipped to February.

The Coyotes opened the month Saturday with a 5-3 win over Pacific Division-leading San Jose, before stunning league-leading Detroit 3-1 on Monday.

"They're two good teams in the upper echelon of the conference and when you're taking points away from them, you're getting points that other teams aren't going to get," coach Dave Tippett said. "You look at those as very valuable points."

Phoenix, which used a late-season surge to reach the playoffs last season, may be in position to repeat that feat in 2011-12. The Coyotes are currently tied with Dallas (27-22-2) for ninth in the West, two points back of Minnesota for the eighth seed.

The Coyotes, who are seeking to win three straight for just the second time this season, may need to play better on the road if they are to catch the Wild. They're 12-11-4 away from home, where they've been outscored 20-9 during a 0-3-3 skid.

Center Martin Hanzal has three goals and two assists in his last three games, matching his point total from his previous 11 contests. He scored twice against the Red Wings to give him eight goals on the season - half his total from 2010-11.

Hanzal has not scored a goal in his last 17 game against the Stars.

Teammate Radim Vrbata has had better luck lately, with 15 points in 17 career visits to Dallas including four goals and two assists in his last six. Vrbata scored in regulation before missing his shootout attempt in the Coyotes' 2-1 road loss to the Stars on Oct. 10.

Phoenix is 1-0-2 in the season series, and has managed at least one point in the standings in 10 of its last 12 trips to Dallas.

Vrbata, the team leader with 24 goals, enters this matchup with two goals and three assists during a four-game point streak.

The Stars have won three of four including Saturday's 2-1 shootout win at home against the Wild. They have a couple of favorable matchups after this contest, visiting NHL-worst Columbus on Thursday before playing at struggling Buffalo the following night.

Kari Lehtonen figures to be back in net for Dallas after winning his last three starts with a 0.97 goals-against average and one shutout. He made 33 saves Saturday before stopping two of three Minnesota shootout attempts.

Lehtonen seems back in midseason form after going 3-7-0 with a 2.91 GAA in his first 10 games after returning from a groin injury suffered early in a 3-0 loss at Phoenix on Nov. 26.

"I think it took him a couple games to get himself back," first-year coach Glen Gulutzan told the Stars' official website. "The last three or four games he played, he was real, real sharp, so I think he's back to where he needs to be."

Lehtonen is 4-1-3 with a 1.91 GAA in nine career starts against the Coyotes.

Jamie Benn, who leads Dallas with 46 points, converted the deciding shootout attempt Saturday after failing to manage a point through regulation and overtime. The All-Star left wing has seven goals in his last 11 games versus Phoenix.

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