Red Wings-Stars Preview

The Associated Press

Jimmy Howard is playing so well that he's making it difficult for coach Mike Babcock to determine when to rest him.

It appears likely Howard will get the chance to add to his NHL-leading 23 victories Tuesday night when the Detroit Red Wings open a four-game road trip by facing the Dallas Stars.

Howard made 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season Saturday in a 3-0 home win over St. Louis. He outdueled the Blues' Brian Elliott for the second time in five days in a matchup of the two goalies with the Western Conference's lowest goals-against averages.

"Every night you want to get up and play your best against the goalie at the other end," Howard told the Red Wings' official website. "I think it's more along the lines that we need the points. We can't sit back and rest on anything. We need to continue to get points."

Howard started 13 of 15 games in December. Although Babcock has stated a desire to give his top goalie some time off, it's been hard to leave him out.

"I haven't rested him at all (recently), so I don't know what I'm going to do," Babcock said.

While Detroit (24-13-1) has won 12 straight at home, it has lost six of nine on the road heading into this trip.

"You want to be real good at home," Babcock said. "We'd like to improve our road record here, and we're going to have an ample opportunity to do that."

Dallas (21-15-1) is seeking to close a three-game homestand on a positive note. The Stars opened it with a stunning 4-1 loss Thursday to lowly Columbus before beating Boston 4-2 two days later.

"I think it's huge for us ... It was a good rebound game," forward Jamie Benn said.

Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves Saturday in his second start since missing a month with a groin injury, getting his first victory since Nov. 23.

Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder each scored on the power play as Dallas ended a four-game, 0-for-11 drought with the man advantage. Trevor Daley added a goal and two assists and Benn also had two assists.

"We kept it a little more simple, we took the chances that we had, we moved the puck fast," Ryder said. "We didn't wait for something to happen. We moved the puck, we made them move."

Beating the defending Stanley Cup champions has given the Stars a much-needed boost of confidence.

"For us moving forward, we've gotta look up," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We can't look down and sideways, we'll trip and fall."

The Red Wings have dropped three of four in Dallas over the past two seasons, but they beat the Stars 5-2 at home on Nov. 12 by scoring three third-period goals to break a tie.

Howard made 25 saves to improve to 3-4-1 with a 2.37 GAA in eight starts versus Dallas.

Lehtonen was rested in that contest. He's 3-3-0 with a 3.18 career GAA against the Red Wings.

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