Stars-Blue Jackets Preview

The Associated Press

The Dallas Stars are on one of their most consistent scoring stretches in years, but lately that hasn't been enough to make up for some dreadful defense and goaltending.

It doesn't seem like injured starter Kari Lehtonen will be ready to help on Tuesday night against the Blue Jackets as the Stars try to avoid a second loss in less than a month in Columbus.

Dallas (9-8-2) totaled 16 goals during its 3-5-1 start, but it has found the back of the net 34 times in its last 10 games. It's scored at least three goals in each of those wins, the club's longest such streak since an 11-game run from Nov. 21-Dec. 15, 2001.

However, the Stars have surrendered four or more goals four times during its current 2-3-1 stretch. Cristopher Nilstorp gave up the final three scores in Monday's 5-4 overtime loss at Nashville after Dallas' Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith, Vernon Fiddler and Loui Eriksson scored second-period goals.

"We needed to make sure we closed them out," coach Glen Gulutzan said after Nilstorp gave up the winner 28 seconds into the extra period.

Nilstorp has allowed 10 goals in three starts since Lehtonen left a 4-3 road win over Vancouver on Feb. 15 with a groin injury, while Richard Bachman has given up seven goals on 47 shots since then.

Lehtonen, who has a 2.12 goals-against average in 12 games, worked out Monday and is getting back to full strength, but it appears that either Nilstorp or Bachman will face the Blue Jackets (5-12-2) for the first time.

Lehtonen was in net in the Stars' last trip to Nationwide Arena, giving up goals to Derek Dorsett and Vinny Prospal in a 2-1 loss on Jan. 28. Dallas was 3-0-1 in its previous four visits.

The Blue Jackets, who have a league-low 12 points, begin a stretch of 10 of 12 at home following a 1-5-0 trip. Columbus has 10 goals since its last home game – a 6-2 victory over San Jose on Feb. 11 – after losing 1-0 to NHL-leading Chicago on Sunday.

The Blue Jackets, who went 1 for 22 on the power play on their trip, rank last in the NHL with 2.05 goals per game.

That leaves little room for error for Sergei Bobrovksy and Steve Mason. It's uncertain which goaltender will be in net on Tuesday, but Mason may have earned another look after turning aside 26 shots against a Blackhawks team that entered the contest on a league-record 17-game season-opening point streak.

"We would have liked to have come in and ended that streak, but that didn't happen," said the former Calder Trophy winner.

Both have fared well against the Stars. Bobrovsky is 3-0-0 with a 1.30 GAA versus Dallas after making 24 saves last month, while Mason is 4-3-0 with a 2.02 GAA in his last seven starts in the series.

Stars center Jamie Benn, who assisted on Philip Larsen's power-play goal in last month's meeting, leads Dallas with six goals and 13 points over the last 10 games.

Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov, third on the club with four goals, could miss a third consecutive game with an upper-body injury.

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