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The Dallas Stars believe their work ethic and experience can provide more than just a return trip to the playoffs. They think another Pacific Division title is also well within reach.
Looking to move closer to their third crown in four seasons, the Stars close out their final regular-season swing through California with a matchup Friday night against the division-leading Anaheim Ducks.
Dallas (44-24-5) has taken two straight from Anaheim (43-19-12) after dropping three of the first four matchups this season. However, the Stars have just one regulation win in their last five trips to the Honda Center.
Against its other Southern California division rival, Dallas capped an eight-game season-series sweep with a 4-2 win Wednesday night over Los Angeles, the last-place team in the Pacific. Antti Miettinen and Krys Barch scored 1:19 apart early in the third period to erase a 2-1 deficit.
"You cannot lose to the teams below you, and our guys understand that," said Stars center Mike Ribeiro, who added a power-play goal. "We know we can beat those guys because we have more talent. And if we play the way we're supposed to and match their work ethic, we have a better chance to win."
With nine games remaining, the third-place Stars still have a chance to move into first. Dallas has 93 points, three behind second-place San Jose and five in back of Anaheim. The Stars also have two games in hand on the Sharks and have played one fewer than the Ducks.
"We are getting ready for the playoffs and these games are key for us to get where we want to be in the standings," Dallas defenseman Philippe Boucher said on the Stars' official Web site. "They are also key in gearing our game to what we want it to be for the playoffs ... We all know about Anaheim. So, it's not going to be a piece of cake going from now to the end of the year."
Following this contest, though, Dallas plays four of its final eight games against Phoenix, Columbus and Chicago - none of which are headed to the postseason.
Anaheim, meanwhile, will have to bounce back from a loss that denied the team some new franchise records. With a 2-1 loss to the Coyotes on Thursday night, the Ducks failed to achieve club marks for points and wins in a season, both set in 2005-06.
Travis Moen's goal with 2:33 to play helped Anaheim avoid the shutout, but the Ducks fell to 0-9-0 on the road this season when scoring one goal or less.
"We had people with no legs," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Certainly, this was not a good game for our guys. We really didn't generate very much until the end."
The Ducks return home looking to avoid losing their third straight overall in regulation for only the fourth time in 2006-07, and to finally eclipse both franchise records. They will look for another good outing against the Stars from forwards Andy McDonald and Teemu Selanne.
McDonald has a team-leading eight points versus the Stars this season, and has scored all three of his goals against them at home. Selanne, meanwhile, has four goals and two assists in the Ducks' three wins over Dallas, but has failed to record a point in three losses during the season series.