The Dallas Stars have enjoyed plenty of success against the Eastern Conference early this season. They know they have to improve against the West, and will get a chance to do so against a coach very familiar with their personnel.
The Stars look for a third straight overall victory and try to end a three-game skid against conference foes when they host their former coach Dave Tippett and the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday night.
Dallas (7-4-0) dropped the first three games of its six-game homestand to West opponents before beating Buffalo 4-0 on Saturday and Pittsburgh 5-2 on Wednesday. The Stars totaled four goals in the losses before the big outbursts in the last two games.
“We’ve got to keep putting these type of efforts out every night,” coach Marc Crawford told the Stars’ official website. “You enjoy it, have a lot of fun tonight, but we have to have a good practice and get ready to battle again on Friday.”
Dallas is 5-1-0 against the East and 2-3-0 versus the West.
Crawford is the man who replaced Tippett, who led the Stars to five straight playoff appearances but got fired after failing to extend that streak in 2008-09.
Tippett moved on and led Phoenix (4-4-3) to a surprising playoff berth last season, earning the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach. Tippett’s .617 winning percentage remains the highest in Stars history. He ranks second behind Ken Hitchcock on the club’s career wins list with 271.
The Coyotes won the first three matchups in last season’s series with the Stars, and four of six overall. Tippett received a nice ovation in his first game back in Dallas, a 4-2 victory Jan. 31.
The unit produced half that output in Wednesday’s win over the Penguins alone. Eriksson had two goals and an assist, Richards added a goal and Neal had one assist.
“The top line was outstanding tonight, right from the get-go,” Crawford said. “They were strong with the puck, they made great plays. They were dominant.”
Ed Jovanovski(notes) will be one of several Phoenix defensemen trying to slow down that line. The Coyotes got some unexpected offense Wednesday from Jovanovski, who notched the first hat trick of his 15-year career in a 4-3 home win over Nashville.
“It was a heck of an effort on his part, that’s for sure,” Tippett said. “He was opportunistic on the goals, but he played a solid game for us, too. It was good to see him get rewarded for that hard work.”
Jovanovski, who did not have a goal in his first nine games, has never scored more than 17 in any season. He’s gone 16 straight games against Dallas without a goal.
Jovanovski and Lee Stempniak(notes) each scored on the power play against the Predators, giving Phoenix two goals with the man advantage for the first time all season. The Stars have one of the league’s worst penalty kills at 71.4 percent, although they have limited opponents to two goals in their last 17 chances.