Stars-Jets Preview

The Associated PressMarch 14, 2012

Aesthetics aren't a concern to the Dallas Stars. Padding their lead atop the Pacific Division is the chief worry.

The Stars go for their longest winning streak in over four years by trying to continue their dominance of the Winnipeg Jets franchise in their only meeting of the season Wednesday night.

Dallas (39-26-5) has gone 10-0-1 in its last 11 games to move into the division lead while building a four-point advantage on second-place Phoenix with 12 games left.

The Stars' surge has them on the brink of their first seven-game winning streak since Jan. 29-Feb. 11, 2008, after a rugged 1-0 victory at Minnesota on Tuesday. Jamie Benn's goal in the third period was held up by Kari Lehtonen's 25 saves for his second consecutive shutout.

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

"What you have to do is stay patient. We know the game is 60 minutes, and if it takes 59 minutes, then it does. Keep sticking with the game plan."

The game plan is proving to be terrific, but Lehtonen's play may be even better. He's 8-0-1 with a 1.29 goals-against average and three shutouts in his last nine starts after losing five of his previous six.

"He stops every puck pretty much," Benn said. "The guy is a workhorse. He's unbelievable back there."

Lehtonen will likely be back in net, and he won his only game against the team formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers and the club he was with for his first five NHL seasons after stopping 29 shots in a 6-1 victory Jan. 15, 2011.

The Stars own an 11-1-1 all-time record against the organization, but a visit to the raucous MTS Centre may pose a new challenge.

The Jets (32-29-8), six points back of Washington for the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, are 21-10-4 at home, winning the last two games there by a combined 10-1 score.

"We're more comfortable at home there's no question, but I think we're more focused on winning games," coach Claude Noel told the team's official website.

Winnipeg is hoping a three-game homestand following a four-day layoff can help it regain some momentum following a pair of road defeats, including 5-3 to Calgary on Friday.

"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."

Evander Kane has eight goals and eight assists in the past 11 games, and leads Winnipeg with a career-high 27 goals. His 48 points are also a personal best.

The left wing scored versus the Flames, but the Jets failed to overcome a three-goal, first-period deficit despite finishing with a 45-27 advantage in shots.

Improvement while killing penalties may be vital if Winnipeg is going to eventually qualify for the postseason. The Jets have allowed 18 power-play goals - three Friday - over the last 19 games since Jan. 31, and their 65.4-percent success rate at killing penalties in that span is last in the league.