Hurricanes-Stars Preview

The Associated Press

The Dallas Stars went into the Olympic break holding onto a Western Conference playoff spot.

The Carolina Hurricanes didn't get off to the start they wanted in their first game back.

The Stars are hoping to pick up where they left off before the break Thursday night against a Hurricanes team continuing a five-game trip.

Dallas (27-21-10) entered the break with 64 points and the eighth seed thanks to a 6-1-2 run to close that stretch. The Stars feel confident they can gain their first playoff berth in six seasons.

"We control our own destiny. The other teams have to hope for us to do something bad for them to get in. It's a great place to be," coach Lindy Ruff told the Stars' official website. "We know how we need to play. We're not going to change anything. We played real good hockey down the stretch before the break, and we know that we're going to need to play the same."

Carolina (26-23-9) became the first team to lose since the break Tuesday, falling 3-2 to league-worst Buffalo to open this trip. The Hurricanes held a 38-18 edge in shots on goal, but did not do enough against Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.

''That was a complete, solid game on our part for 60 minutes," coach Kirk Muller said. "We did everything we had to do.''

Cam Ward made 15 saves in his first start since Dec. 31 after being out with a lower-body injury.

The Hurricanes could be facing another Olympic backup Thursday after struggling against Miller, who was behind Jonathan Quick for the United States. Kari Lehtonen was Finland's backup behind Tuukka Rask.

Lehtonen was a big reason for the Stars' strong play before the break, going 5-1-2 with a 1.50 goals-against average in his previous eight starts.

The Stars will welcome back captain Jamie Benn, one of Canada's stars in the Olympics as it won the gold medal.

The club is also hoping the layoff will help revitalize Alex Chiasson, who has one assist during a 10-game goal-less drought.

"It was good for me to get away and think about something else other than the game," Chiasson said. "I've been thinking so much the last couple of months. Maybe that's what I need, time to sit back and kind of look at what I did and start over again."

Dallas center Tyler Seguin has 11 points in his last eight games.

Eric Staal and Alexander Semin scored Tuesday for the Hurricanes, who have dropped four of six.

"If we play that way again, I like our chances of getting some success," Muller said. "We've just got to bring that same formula and take it into Dallas."

The Hurricanes are 0 for 17 on the power play in their last six road games, and that unit is at 13.9 percent for one of the league's worst marks.

The Stars have killed off 28 of opponents' last 32 power plays.

Dallas has won three straight in this series and has eight wins and one tie in nine home meetings since the Hurricanes' franchise relocated to Carolina in 1997-98.

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