Stars-Coyotes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 02, 2013
The Phoenix Coyotes seem to be good for the Dallas Stars' psyche, and their offense. The Stars look to continue their success against the Pacific Division foe by sweeping this home-and-home set Saturday night in Phoenix. Dallas (3-4-1) is among the worst offensive teams in the league with 17 goals, but eight have come in two meetings with Phoenix (2-4-2). The Stars opened the season with a 4-3 home victory over the Coyotes, and beat them by the same score in a shootout at the same venue Friday to snap a four-game skid. That performance was a welcome change for a team that totaled nine goals during a 1-4-1 stretch. "I thought the win itself was best for our psyche, and it gives us something to try to build off of," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "For sure, this game gets mental. The win helps for our belief, but as our belief increases, our game has got to get tidied up now. "That's how you get on a roll." Gulutzan is still concerned with his club's anemic offense play since Dallas has been outshot in every game this season, including 34-24 on Friday. "I think there's still room for improvement offensively, as far as putting more shots on net and creating more zone time," he said. "We're still looking for some chemistry early in the season, and I think that will help our offense." Continued production from rookies Antoine Roussel and Brenden Dillon would surely help. Roussel scored in his NHL debut Friday, while Dillon notched his first career points with a goal and an assist. "Just perfect," said Roussel, who was also 6-1 on faceoffs. "That was fun, obviously. I'm happy that the first one is out of the way. That's perfect to get a win, that's what's most important." Kari Lehtonen may be back in net after making 34 saves through overtime and three more in the shootout Friday. He's won three starts in a row - all at home - against the Coyotes while giving up three goals in each. He's 2-0-3 with a 1.88 goals-against average in six games at Phoenix. The Coyotes are looking to avoid a season-high three-game slide, but they have points in three straight (1-0-2) after overcoming a two-goal, first-period deficit Friday. "I thought our team hung around the game, competed really hard and gave ourselves a chance to win, but in the end gave a point up," coach Dave Tippett said. "We'll take that point, put it in the bank." Radim Vrbata has five goals and four assists in his last five games versus the Stars, tallying five of those points in two meetings this season. He had a goal and an assist Friday to extend his scoring streak to five games, during which he's totaled six points. It's unclear if Mike Smith will be back in net after making 21 saves Friday in his first game since missing four because of a lower-body injury. "Not really many positive things, but just tried to battle, stay in it, and give the team a chance," said Smith, who is 0-1-2 with a 3.18 GAA in his last three starts against Dallas. Coyotes forward Raffi Torres is expected to be back in the lineup after serving the last of his 21-game suspension for his hit that knocked out Chicago's Marian Hossa in last year's playoffs. Torres was initially given a 25-game ban before it was shortened to 21. He sat out 13 playoff games last spring.
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