STARS (11-4-0) at RED WINGS (8-5-1)
TV: TXA-21; FS-Detroit (HD)
Last 10: Dallas 7-3-0; Detroit 4-5-1
Season Series: The Western Conference rivals are meeting for the first time this season. Dallas took three of the four games last season -- including both at Joe Louis Arena, where they've won four of their last five games -- and has won nine of the last 12 overall.
Big Story: Both teams are playing for the second time in as many nights, but while the Stars are getting ready to go home after a tough four-game trip, the Wings need a win to send them off on a four-game Western swing on a positive note. The Stars still lead the West despite their 3-1 loss at Pittsburgh, while the Wings cooled off the Edmonton Oilers with a 3-0 win at home for their third victory in a row after a six-game losing streak.
Stars: Dallas had won four in a row and two straight on the road before allowing a pair of third-period goals to lose in Pittsburgh, allowing the Penguins to pass them for the lead in the overall standings. Eric Nystrom's first-period goal gave Dallas the early lead, but Pittsburgh grew more dominant as the night went on.
"Tonight, I thought we got outworked and I don't want to see that happen again tomorrow night," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Going into Detroit, we want to make sure we're ready and we're playing our game. The results are going to take care of themselves, but we can't get outworked two nights in a row. For us, coming into Washington, Pittsburgh and Detroit, it was a measuring stick for us and we still have a ways to go, but we're not that far off."
Red Wings: Goaltender Jimmy Howard is working his way into the NHL's elite. Howard stopped all 24 shots he faced Friday to tie for the League lead in shutouts with three as he outplayed Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin, whose nine-game numbers were the best since the NHL expanded to 12 teams in 1967.
"Jimmy has been playing great all year," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Even when we were slumping, he was playing great and giving us a chance to win those games."
Who's Hot: Nystrom, who had just four goals for Minnesota last season, already has five for the Stars and is riding a four-game goal-scoring streak. … Howard has two shutouts in his last three games.
Injury Report: Dallas lost defenseman Alex Goligoski in the first period Friday night with a thumb injury. Gulutzan said he will be out for some time. Forward Steve Ott (hip) is on IR. … Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi will miss his fourth straight game with a sinus infection. Patrick Eaves returned Friday after missing three games with a bad back.
Stat Pack: This is the most even series in NHL history. The teams are meeting for the 237th time since the Minnesota North Stars entered the League in 1967 (they became the Stars when they moved to Dallas in 1993). Each team has won 101 times, with 34 ties. The only difference: Five of Dallas' wins and one of Detroit's victory have come after regulation.
Puck Drop: Despite a 1.63 goals-against average, Howard is not on the NHL All-Star ballot, which lists 18 goaltenders. He says it doesn't bother him -- even though his play so far this season has been of All-Star caliber.
"It doesn't bother me one bit," Howard said after Friday's win.
He's also more than willing to share the credit for his hot start with his teammates.
"We have to get through the neutral zone, making teams go a full 200 feet, we're not turning pucks over," Howard said. "We're not seeing a lot of odd-man rushes against. Guys are sacrificing their bodies. It's exciting to play for a goalie when you see that."
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