It’s already been a frustrating few months for the Dallas Stars, and their season-high losing streak isn’t making matters any easier.
The Stars hope to end their struggles on Saturday when they visit the Phoenix Coyotes for the first of the teams’ six meetings this season.
Dallas (5-8-3) clinched its fifth consecutive playoff berth last season, reaching the Western Conference finals before being ousted in six games by eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit.
That success hasn’t extended into the early going of 2008-09 as the Stars have failed to win back-to-back games, have allowed 60 goals - among the most in the NHL - and sit last in the Pacific Division.
The Stars have also lost a season-high three straight, falling 3-2 to the visiting Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. Brad Richards contributed a goal and an assist and Marty Turco made 26 saves as Dallas lost for the fifth time in six games (1-4-1).
The Stars were outshot for the fourth straight time and for the fifth time in six games. Captain Brenden Morrow - second on the team with 14 points - said inconsistency has been the Stars’ biggest problem.
“We seem to be a flat team, with a lead or when we’re down a goal,” Morrow said. “We’re getting a good shift followed by a bad one. Then we get pressed again and a goal will go in against us. We’re a foot short.”
Ineffective penalty killing has also been a problem. The Stars allowed two power-play goals on Thursday and have surrendered 10 in 44 opportunities over the last nine games. The power-play unit hasn’t been much better, converting four times in 28 chances in the last six contests.
Dallas will look to correct those shortcomings as it opens its six-game season series versus Phoenix (8-7-0). The Stars lost five of eight to the Coyotes in 2007-08 after winning 10 of the previous 12 matchups.
Dallas has won nine of its last 12 in Phoenix, but the Coyotes are 5-2-0 there this season.
“We know that (the Stars have) had a tough start to the season and they want to turn it around,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek told the Coyotes’ official Web site. “It’s going to be a huge game for both teams and hopefully we can keep winning at home and playing well.”
The Coyotes had their three-game winning streak snapped with a 4-0 loss at Minnesota on Thursday. All the Wild’s goals were scored on the power play, and opponents have gone 7-for-16 against the Coyotes over the last three games.
Phoenix faltered on its six power-play chances to fall to 2-for-28 over the last five games.
“It comes down to the power play,” said captain Shane Doan, who tops the Coyotes with nine goals and is tied for the team lead with 16 points. “We had some opportunities. They capitalized on theirs and we didn’t on ours.”
Doan has 24 goals and 25 assists in 69 career games versus the Stars, who will likely have Turco in the net Saturday. He has allowed nine goals on 62 shots in losing his last three against Phoenix.
Ilya Bryzgalov, who has compiled a 2.01 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage in winning five of his last eight games, is expected to start for Phoenix. He has won two of his last three against Dallas.