The Dallas Stars may not be ready to give up their Pacific Division title after all.
Dallas looks to close the gap on the first-place San Jose Sharks when the teams meet for the third time this season.
Early this season, the Stars were one of the league’s most disappointing teams, struggling to get above .500 and seemingly in danger of missing the playoffs.
Dallas hit bottom with a five-game losing streak in early December, but has since lost just five of 24 games (13-5-6-0) and is unbeaten in its last four (3-0-1). The resurgence has pulled the Stars within six points of first-place San Jose—arguably the league’s biggest surprise.
In what may have been their most impressive victory of the season, the Stars scored four third-period goals against one of the league’s best defensive teams Wednesday in a 5-3 win over visiting Ottawa.
“If that game goes like it does the first two months, we’re done,” Stars forward Scott Young said. “We wouldn’t have been able to come back in the third period then. That tells you the strides we’ve taken. We’re not out of a game anymore. This is a different team.”
Marty Turco is expected to make his 14th straight start in net for Dallas. He is 5-0-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average in six career appearances against San Jose.
While the Stars are looking more like a team that has won a division title in six of the past seven years, the Sharks are showing no signs of slowing down.
San Jose won for the sixth time in seven games Wednesday, 4-1 over visiting Calgary.
San Jose coach Ron Wilson knows his team will be tested with its next two games on the road against Dallas and Nashville.
“You want to make sure, when you’re facing the two teams we’ll be against, and it’s back-to-back as well as three games in four nights, that you don’t let your home points slip away,” Wilson said. “If you don’t come up big tonight, you’re looking quickly at what could be three losses in a row and a bad feeling.”
San Jose’s goaltending tandem of Nabokov and Vesa Toskala is one of the main reasons for the team’s success. The two have combined for a 2.01 GAA—second in the NHL behind New Jersey.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 28): Sharks - 63 points, 1st place, Pacific Division. Stars - 57 points, 2nd place, 6 PB, Pacific Division.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 28): Sharks - Power play: 16.2 percent (34 for 210), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 87.6 percent (183 for 209), 2nd. Stars - Power play: 15.7 percent (33 for 210), 14th. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (167 for 197), 13th.
GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Nabokov (14-12-7, 5 SO, 2.06 GAA); Toskala (10-4-4, 1.90). Stars - Turco (23-17-9, 4, 2.08); Jason Bacashihua (no appearances).
SEASON SERIES: 1-1-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 13; Stars, 3-0. At San Jose, Calif., Guerin scored two goals, including the 300th of his career, and Turco stopped 17 shots for his third shutout of the season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 12-7-4-2 on the road; Stars - 14-6-5-0 at home.