Stars-Oilers Preview


The Dallas Stars have two upcoming games against the current Pacific Division leaders that could help decide their postseason fate.

So could a loss to the surging Edmonton Oilers.

The Stars go for the season sweep Wednesday night when the host Oilers try to record their first eight-game point streak since 2005-06.

One point behind division-leading San Jose, Dallas (41-30-5) opens a home-and-home set of games against the Sharks on Saturday to conclude its four-game trip.

But the Stars, who face Northwest Division champion Vancouver on Friday, have bigger worries after beginning their stretch outside Dallas with Monday's 5-4 loss to Calgary. Kari Lehtonen was beat four times during a 10:16 span of the second period, and Dallas dropped from the division lead to seventh in the Western Conference with San Jose defeating Colorado 5-1 later that night.

"You've got to learn how to win. The way we went about it doesn't look like we want to win. It really doesn't,'' said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan, whose team has dropped four of six since a season-best 10-0-1 run. "They've got to figure it out for themselves, they either want it or don't.''

Wanting it won't be enough, as Dallas needs to start picking up points in its final six games with Phoenix, Los Angeles, the Avalanche and Flames also targeting for one of the final two playoff spots.

While the Stars have history on their side against the Oilers (31-36-9) - outscoring them 11-3 in three contests this season and winning eight of nine in this series - Edmonton has been playing some of its best hockey of late.

The Oilers won't make the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, but they have no intention of slowing down after finishing a 3-0-1 trip with Sunday's 6-3 victory over league-worst Columbus.

Edmonton, 5-0-2 since its last regulation loss, last recorded points in eight straight games during a 7-0-3 surge from Dec. 1-23, 2005.

"We have hockey yet to play," coach Tom Renney said. "Our hope and our objective is to make sure that we finish the whole season this way."

The Oilers will have to make their final push without Taylor Hall, who is done for the season with a shoulder injury. The 2010 No. 1 overall pick, who hasn't played since March 16 due to a concussion, finished with 27 goals and 53 points - both career highs.

"He's going to have an incredible career, so this is the right time to take care of business and get this (surgery) done," Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini told the team's official Twitter account Tuesday.

In five games since Hall last played, eight Oilers have recorded at least four points, with Ryan Jones' six leading the team.

That sort of balance could make Lehtonen's job difficult as he's expected to make a sixth straight start.

Lehtonen is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average against the Oilers in 2011-12 after turning aside 19 shots in a 3-1 Dallas road win March 2.

Devan Dubnyk hasn't faced the Stars this season, but he's earned the right to be in net Wednesday after Sunday's 29-save performance helped him improve to 5-0-1 with a 1.62 GAA in his last six starts.

Stars forward Jamie Benn, who has found the back of the net four times in the last two games, is tied with Mike Ribeiro, Radek Dvorak and Michael Ryder with the most goals against Edmonton this season with two.

Dallas' last season sweep in this series was in 2007-08.