Stars-Coyotes Preview

The Associated Press

Mike Smith is enjoying the longest win streak of his career, including two straight shutouts for the first time.

His task figures to be easier Saturday night since the Dallas Stars expect to be without their top scorer.

If Smith gets the start, he'll be searching for his seventh consecutive victory when the Phoenix Coyotes host a Stars team that will be without All-Star Jamie Benn.

Phoenix (28-21-9) is 6-0-1 in its last seven, winning all six of Smith's starts in that stretch. He has posted a 0.99 goals-against average during his run, making 38 saves in last Saturday's 3-0 win over Chicago and 28 in Thursday's 1-0 victory at Los Angeles.

"We're deserving to win right now," Smith said. "At the start of the season, maybe we lost some games we didn't deserve to win. But right now we're finding ways to win, and we're doing it the right way. That makes it feel that much better."

Smith, who began his career with Dallas in 2006-07, is 4-0-3 with a 1.95 career GAA against the Stars. He's started all four games against Dallas this season, posting a 0.96 GAA with two wins and two shootout losses.

The Stars (29-25-3) will not have Benn available. The left winger, who has a team-high 49 points, was cut on the back of the left knee by Mark Giordano's skate in Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over Calgary.

Coach Glen Gulutzan indicated that he would try to get Benn back for Sunday's home game with Nashville.

"There's just stitches in his leg, so he's going to be a day-to-day guy. It's a pretty decent size cut," Gulutzan said.

The Coyotes' victory Thursday moved them into a tie with the Kings for the Western Conference's last two playoff spots with 65 points. Dallas has 61 but with a game in hand on those clubs.

"Everyone's chasing everybody right now," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said.

Doan's team has killed off all 16 opponents' power plays over its last five games. Dallas' power play is among the NHL's worst at 14.6 percent, including 1 for 15 against Phoenix.

The Coyotes could again be short-handed on the blue line after Rostislav Klesla sustained an upper-body injury early in Thursday's game after a solid check by Dustin Brown.

"When you lose Klesla, you're down to five defensemen, so you've got to sustain some pressure in the offensive zone to take some of the pressure off your defensemen," coach Dave Tippett said. "We had some shifts that really did that."

The Stars insist they are still trying to make the playoffs despite Thursday's trade of defenseman Nicklas Grossman to Philadelphia for a 2012 second-round pick and a 2013 third-round pick.

"This isn't an indication we're going to be sellers," general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said. "This is an indication we're going to be active. ... We're trying to build something here that's not only a good product today but, more importantly, we want to contend for Cups like the Detroit's, like the San Jose's, not just bordering on the seven-through-12 area. We want to be a consistent team."

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