Rangers-Stars Preview

TOM CASTRO (STATS Senior Editor)
The Associated Press

The Dallas Stars have to be hoping that a light schedule over the past week, along with some poor recent results on home ice, won't blunt their hot play.

Returning to action Thursday night after a three-day break to play their second game in seven days, the Stars host a New York Rangers team that's struggled to score during a rough patch.

Dallas (11-7-2) has been off since finishing a sweep of a three-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over Vancouver on Sunday. Valeri Nichushkin and Erik Cole scored goals while Kari Lehtonen made 42 saves as the Stars won for the sixth time in seven games.

Lehtonen was stellar in the second period, turning away all 20 shots he faced.

''He's been fantastic," Cole said of Lehtonen, who's won his last three starts with a 1.33 goals-against average. "Night after night he continues to surprise even us making unbelievable saves.''

Lehtonen hasn't been nearly as effective at home recently, however, mirroring his team's fortunes there. The Stars' last six wins have come on the road, with Dallas going 0-1-2 in its past three on its own ice.

Lehtonen allowed seven total goals in the two most recent home games, against Colorado on Nov. 1 and Chicago on Nov. 9. The Stars have also scored five goals during the three-game home skid while totaling 23 in their six consecutive road wins.

Dallas hopes its top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Nichushkin can carry its outstanding production to home ice. Benn and Seguin assisted on Nichushkin's tally against the Canucks, one game after the unit had five goals - four from Seguin - and eight assists in a 7-3 win over Calgary on Thursday.

''They have been real good,'' coach Lindy Ruff said. ''They had a couple really good opportunities they didn't convert on, but we know it isn't going to keep going at this pace. I hope it does, but it probably won't.''

The Rangers (10-11-0) don't have anyone scoring at that rate, as New York has totaled four goals in losing three of four following a 6-1-0 surge. It outshot Boston 44-22 on Wednesday but lost 2-1.

"One thing we have to start doing is make the opposition pay for their mistakes. ... We gotta start capitalizing on that," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I believe we've got the skill set and the talent to do it. We've gotta keep working on those aspects and sooner (rather) than later it's going to pay off."

The return of forward Rick Nash from a 17-game absence due to a concussion didn't change the Rangers' fortunes, though he did record a team high-tying five shots on goal.

''I felt OK,'' said Nash, who has three goals in his last two games against the Stars. ''The timing and the speed, that will come. The first couple of shifts, it was tough, but I found (my game) and found some chances.''

Like Dallas, New York seems to prefer being on the road. The Rangers, opening a five-game trip, have won four straight away from home while losing three in a row at Madison Square Garden.

The Stars have taken four of the past six meetings, winning 1-0 on the road in the latest one Dec. 13, 2011.

Seguin has six goals and two assists during a four-game point streak.

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