The Dallas Stars appear to have recaptured their home-ice advantage. They look to protect it on Friday when they host the Anaheim Ducks in a matchup of Pacific Division rivals.
The Stars (35-21-3) opened the season with 11 wins in their first 13 home games, but lost six of their next eight at the American Airlines Center. Since that slump, though, Dallas is 6-1-1 at home, scoring at least one power-play goal in each of those games.
Overall, the Stars are 9-3-2 in their last 14 games, including Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss at Minnesota. The Stars failed to score with the man advantage for the first time in six games and gave up 39 shots, matching a season high.
"It was a good, close game and it's disappointing to not get the two points," Marty Turco told the team's official Web site after making 38 saves. "It's about giving us a chance to win and we know we're going to see a lot of hockey like this the rest of the way. We are going to see desperate teams trying to move up, so we are in battle mode now. We have to stay with it and play as a team."
Anaheim (35-16-10) might not be one of those desperate teams, but the division-leading Ducks have lost five of their last seven games and 10 of 15.
The Ducks are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver on Tuesday. Anaheim blew two leads and captain Scott Niedermayer was whistled for a hooking penalty in the extra period, setting up Vancouver's game-winning power play.
"You don't want to be in the penalty box in overtime when there's that much (open) ice," Niedermayer said. "A 4-on-3 is tough to defend, and unfortunately, they capitalized."
The overtime loss came on the heels of the Ducks' 4-3 shootout loss to Los Angeles on Sunday. The Ducks are among the league leaders in overtime losses with 10, having dropped seven of their last eight games decided after regulation.
"Earlier in the year, a lot of these games were going our way. And if we keep working at it, eventually, it'll go that way again," Niedermayer said. "We know what works for this team, so we just have to get back to it and stay with it."
What has been working for the Ducks, despite their current slump, is the power play. Anaheim, which owns the third-best power play in the NHL at 21.2 percent, is 7-for-21 (33.3 percent) with the man advantage in its last four games.
Anaheim is 3-1-1 against Dallas this season, but the Stars won 1-0 in the last meeting on Feb. 10. Jussi Jokinen scored a power-play goal early in the third period and rookie Mike Smith, starting in Turco's place, made 32 saves for his third shutout in his first nine NHL starts.
"That's a great team over there," Smith said of the Ducks after that game. "They have a lot of firepower."
In their previous three meetings with Anaheim, Turco and the Stars had given up 13 goals.
The Ducks, ahead of Dallas since October, have a seven-point cushion over the Stars in the division standings with San Jose still between them.
"They've been on top all year long," Stars defenseman Philippe Boucher said after his team's win over Anaheim two weeks ago. "Hopefully if we play well we'll get a chance to catch them at the end."
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