Avalanche-Stars Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 03, 2011
With the first month under new coach Glen Gulutzan a major success, the Dallas Stars are looking for similar results as their November schedule begins. Facing the struggling Colorado Avalanche could help the Stars begin the month on a positive note. Playing its first game in nearly a week, Dallas concludes a three-game homestand Friday night against an Avalanche club that may be glad to be skating outside Denver. Hired in June to replace Marc Crawford, whose two seasons at the helm each resulted in last-place finishes, Gulutzan has the Stars (8-3-0) atop the Pacific Division and off to their best start since opening 11-2-0 in 2006. "Looking at the first 10-game segment, if you'd asked any one of us at the start of the season if we'd take 7-3, we'd all sign up for that, and here we are at 8-3, that's a pretty good month," captain Brenden Morrow told the team's official website following Saturday's 3-1 victory over New Jersey. "We're pretty happy with our start." While the Stars would like to increase their shot output - they rank near the bottom of the NHL with 26.6 per game - the club is 6-1-0 in games it has been outshot. Kari Lehtonen, named the NHL's second star for October after going 8-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average, has been in net for six of those contests as the Stars have killed 32 of 36 penalties. "You're going to get into these games where you get outshot, maybe out-chanced and you find a way to win," Gulutzan said. However, slowing down the Avs' power-play unit could be a challenge. Colorado (7-5-0) has converted 35.7 percent of its chances in the last nine games, including 8 of 14 on the road. The Avalanche, though, went 0 for 4 on Wednesday in a 4-1 home loss to Phoenix. They're 2-4-0 since a five-game winning streak and have totaled five goals in their five losses. "It's hard to win hockey games when you're not scoring goals," said forward Milan Hejduk, who had three goals and an assist as Colorado and Dallas split four matchups in 2010-11. "We just have to keep playing the same way and eventually we'll start scoring goals." The Avs are averaging a league-worst 1.2 goals on home ice - where they are 1-4-0 - but have scored 24 times while posting the league's best road record at 6-1-0. Facing Lehtonen, 5-0-1 with a 2.14 GAA in six starts against Colorado, could slow down that production. He has a 1.82 GAA while winning five of six at home. Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, 4-0-0 with a 2.59 GAA on the road, has never started in Dallas. Backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere has made 19 starts there, going 5-12-2 with a 2.88 GAA. Morrow notched a team-best three goals versus Colorado last season but has not scored in six straight games. Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro, who have combined for seven goals and 10 assists in 2011-12, each had four points in the final three meetings last season as Dallas went 2-0-1. Avs center Ryan O'Reilly, who scored Wednesday and has a team-high nine points, has just one assist in eight games against Dallas. The Stars conclude a stretch of five of six on the road Nov. 18 in Denver, and Colorado returns to Dallas 10 days later.
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