Senators-Stars Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 30, 2011
With their No. 1 goaltender out for the foreseeable future, the Dallas Stars are expecting big things from veteran Andrew Raycroft. If his latest effort is any indication, Raycroft seems more than capable of holding his own. Raycroft looks to build on his first victory in nearly a year when the Stars host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. Saturday's 3-0 loss at Phoenix proved costly for Dallas (14-9-1), which lost Kari Lehtonen - 13-4-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average - to a right groin strain early in the first period. While Raycroft failed to come through in place of the injured Lehtonen - who's expected to miss three weeks - on Saturday, he stepped up during Monday's 3-1 victory at Colorado. Raycroft made 35 saves, helping kill all three of the Avalanche's power-play opportunities. "Raycroft was huge for us. Nice for our guys to have some confidence in him," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "It's good for his confidence moving forward because we are going without Kari Lehtonen for a while." Raycroft, 5-8-2 with a 3.47 GAA over his last 15 starts against Ottawa (12-10-2), earned his first win since a posting a 26-save shutout at Minnesota on Jan. 9. "It would have been nice to get one earlier. That's the way it goes, but I played well enough to get on," Raycroft said. "Things have changed for me, and now I'm going to get some starts here and carry some load. I've done it before and am confident in my ability." Raycroft could be in for a challenge against a Senators team coming off its highest-scoring game of the season. Forwards Milan Michalek and Zack Smith each scored twice and Craig Anderson turned away 39 of a season-high 43 shots faced during Tuesday's 6-4 win at Winnipeg. Ottawa, which has won four of six as a visitor, concludes a stretch of nine of 10 on the road Saturday against Washington. "Anytime you can get a win on the road - especially (on) a trip like this - it's really nice. It's a big two points," said Smith, who's notched six points during the trek. "Early in the year you wanna make sure you're in the hunt and we've had some success on the road." The Senators rank among the league's top five with an average of 3.23 goals on the road - one-half goal more than they score at home. That offensive prowess has helped Anderson post a 6-3-0 record over his last nine road games despite a shaky 3.56 GAA. Anderson is 3-1-0 with a 2.26 GAA and one shutout over four career starts versus the Stars. Ottawa, which has allowed a power-play goal in five consecutive games, faces a Dallas team struggling with the man advantage. The Stars' power play has gone 0 for 20 over the last eight games and their 76 opportunities this season are among the league's fewest. Dallas is also surely looking for defenseman Sheldon Souray to pick up the pace. The three-time All-Star, who tallied 13 points in his first 14 games, has been held without one over his last 10. In addition to Lehtonen, the Stars are dealing with injuries to captain Brenden Morrow (upper body), Adam Burish (broken hand) and Alex Goligoski (broken thumb). Ottawa is likely to be without defenseman Filip Kuba, who suffered an upper-body injury against the Jets. The status of forward Nikita Filatov remains unknown after he was hit in the face by a falling player's skate Tuesday.
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