With some of their key players healthy again, the Dallas Stars are confident they can make a successful push toward earning their first playoff berth in four seasons.
Even with a full roster, the visiting Stars could be in for a challenge Wednesday night while trying for their second victory in as many games over the Anaheim Ducks, who have won a season-high six in a row at home.
Though Dallas (25-21-2) snapped a five-game skid with a 1-0 home win over Anaheim on Jan. 24 in its final game before the All-Star break, the Stars have totaled just seven goals in the last six games. That lack of production is a big reason why they are three points of out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
However, the club is confident their offense will pick up with Jamie Benn, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow - who have a combined for 31 goals - back on the ice at the same time.
While Ribeiro returned against the Ducks last week from missing seven games with a knee injury, the 33-year-old Morrow will play Wednesday after sitting against Anaheim with an upper-body injury. Benn, second on the team with 42 points, is expected back after he took part in last weekend's All-Star festivities following a five-game absence while recovering from an emergency appendectomy.
"We think that our best games are ahead of us," first-year coach Glen Gulutzan told the Stars' official website. "We are healthy and in a position to do it. Now it just has to get done. We have to work to get it done but we're healthy and ready to go."
The Stars can begin by improving their play on the road while trying to continue their success against Anaheim (19-23-7) this season. Dallas has lost five of seven away from home and split its two previous trips to Anaheim this season. The Stars lost 5-2 at Anaheim on Jan. 10 - their only defeat in four games against the Ducks in 2011-12.
Though the Ducks have outscored opponents 27-13 while in the midst of their longest home winning stretch since an 11-game run Dec. 8, 2009-Feb. 10, 2010, defenseman Alex Goligoski scored the lone goal and Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves as Dallas beat Anaheim last week despite a season-low 16 shots.
Coming off his first shutout of 2011-12, Lehtonen is 2-1-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average versus Anaheim this season.
"Give (the Stars) credit, they were a pretty determined group checking-wise,'' Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "When you haven't won in a couple weeks, you're gonna check your rear end off and they did. They frustrated us.''
With an assist in that contest, Ribeiro has two and two goals in three games against the Ducks this season.
Anaheim's Andrew Cogliano had not scored a goal in his previous eight games before he recorded a natural hat trick in less than 7 minutes as the Ducks won for the ninth time in 11 games, 4-1 at Phoenix on Tuesday.
"Those won't go in every night, but for myself I need to shoot more," said Cogliano, who had eight goals coming into that game. "You can't have a better example of that.''
Teammate Saku Koivu, who had an assist Tuesday, recorded a hat trick in the home victory over the Stars earlier this month.