Stars-Coyotes Preview


The Dallas Stars have had plenty of success this season against the Pacific Division, and Saturday's win at league-best Anaheim reaffirmed that trend.

A win Tuesday night at Phoenix would give the Stars a 2-0 start on a four-game stretch against Pacific opponents heading into the Olympic break.

The Stars (25-21-9) improved to 11-2-2 against the Pacific this season with a 2-0 victory over the Ducks and 4-1-1 in their last six games overall with three shutouts.

Defenseman Trevor Daley's second-period goal held up as the winner, and Jamie Benn found the back of an empty net in the final minute for his 22nd goal of the season.

Benn has scored in five straight games and has 10 points on a six-game point streak, though he's gone six straight without a point against Phoenix. Linemate Tyler Seguin assisted Benn and has nine points on a five-game point streak.

Seguin leads the Stars with 54 points while Benn is close behind with 50, but it was Cody Eakin, third on the team with 27 points, who drew praise from coach Lindy Ruff after assisting Daley and playing a solid defensive game against the potent Ducks forwards.

"He's really smart when it comes to defending, in staying above the puck and getting on the right side of somebody," Ruff told the team's official website. "Some of that stuff is hard to teach and I think he's really grabbed a hold of that responsibility. He's played against some tough personnel down low this year."

Backup goaltender Dan Ellis made 26 saves to earn his first shutout of the season. He hadn't played since Jan. 12.

"It was time to get him in," Ruff said. "By the looks of things, we may have to play him more. He gave us a rock solid game. We only had a couple of big breakdowns, and he was there for us."

Starter Kari Lehtonen, meanwhile, has two of his three shutouts in his last five games, a 3-1-1 stretch.

Phoenix (26-19-10) has also featured its No. 2 goalie lately with Thomas Greiss starting two of the last three games, but starter Mike Smith was between the pipes for Saturday's 3-1 home win over Pittsburgh and will be again against Dallas. He stopped 23 of 24 shots after allowing 15 goals in his previous four starts.

"It was nice to get back in there and play well and gain some confidence," Smith told the team's official website. "It's frustrating not playing, but (Greiss) deserved to play and I needed to work on some things. Hopefully we can keep pushing forward now."

Smith allowed one total goal in two home wins against the Stars last season as the teams split a four-game series with the home team winning on each occasion.

The Coyotes got goals from Mike Ribeiro, Zbynek Michalek and Radim Vrbata against the Penguins as they beat the top team in the East two days after a 3-2 home loss to league-worst Buffalo.

"I think we had something to prove," Michalek said. "We believed in this room that when we play the right way, we can play against any team. I think tonight was a great effort by everybody."

Vrbata has five goals and four assists in his last six games against the Stars.

Dallas visits San Jose on Wednesday before concluding its pre-Olympic slate Saturday with a visit from Phoenix.