Stars-Blue Jackets Preview

The Associated Press

The Dallas Stars are hoping to put a poor performance behind them as they begin a road trip against two of the NHL's worst teams.

They open the two-game swing Thursday night against a Columbus Blue Jackets club looking for its first three-game win streak of the season.

Dallas (27-23-2) is two points out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Stars missed a chance to move into playoff position Tuesday, losing 4-1 to Phoenix.

"I think it might be all right to get on the road and try to get going," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We're making it tough on ourselves. We could have been in eighth spot tonight."

The Stars have split four games since the All-Star break, and Tuesday's effort was the first one in that span in which they outshot their opponent.

"Awful, atrocious. I don't know,'' defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "We've gotten by on a really good goaltender our last three or four games and it's just not good enough. We can talk about it and try to figure it out and point fingers, but really as a whole, we've really been letting ourselves down, especially as important as this stretch of games is and what it means.''

Dallas will play on consecutive nights against league-worst Columbus (15-32-6) and Buffalo before returning home.

"We got a two-game road trip coming up right now which is pretty huge and we gotta make sure we come back here with some points," right wing Michael Ryder said.

The Blue Jackets have won back-to-back games for the second time this season, defeating Minnesota 3-1 on Tuesday. Rookie David Savard had a goal and an assist.

Columbus' two wins have come on the heels of a 3-2 defeat in Los Angeles last Wednesday, a solid effort that ended in controversial fashion when an apparent clock error led to a goal allowed with one second left.

"I think the last nine periods now, we aren't perfect, we make our mistakes," interim coach Todd Richards said. "But the hard work usually makes up for those mistakes. We got players now that are committed to having each other's back."

Jeff Carter scored in his second straight game since returning after missing 10 games with a separated shoulder. Thirteen of his 19 points have come at home.

"He's been playing very well for us," Richards said. "What I'm impressed with is how he's moving up and down the ice."

Curtis Sanford has recorded the last two victories for Columbus. He's 4-1-1 with a 3.22 goals-against average in seven career starts against the Stars, last facing them in 2008.

Kari Lehtonen, who has started six of the Stars' last seven games, is 4-3-1 with a 1.75 GAA against Columbus. He has started all three meetings this season, with Dallas winning two.

Neither team's power play has been solid, with the Stars at 14.6 percent and the Blue Jackets at 14.5. Dallas, though, is 3 for 11 since the break.

Columbus' penalty kill continues to rank as the NHL's worst at 75.7 percent, allowing nine goals in the last 28 chances.

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