BLUE JACKETS (14-16-7) at STARS (15-10-11)
Last 10 -- Columbus 1-7-2; Dallas 3-3-4
Season series -- This is the second of four meetings this season. The Blue Jackets, in the midst of a 7-1-1 run, beat the Stars 4-1 in Dallas on Nov. 19 behind Steve Mason's 24 saves, three power-play goals and a shorthanded score in a fight-filled game. They play twice more in Columbus on Jan. 10 and Feb. 4.
Big story -- There were 57 minutes of penalties in the first period of the Nov. 19 game. It started when Columbus' Derek Dorsett cross-checked James Neal in retaliation for Neal's fight last year with Derrick Brassard. Trevor Daley stepped in and fought Dorsett. Then Steve Ott fought Jason Chimera, Krys Barch and Jared Boll fought and Rick Nash tussled with Stephane Robidas, Kristian Huselius scoring shorthanded during Nash's boarding penalty. But it was Neal's boarding of Dorsett in the second period, causing Dorsett to miss nine games with a concussion while Neal drew a two-game suspension, that left lingering anger between the teams. Dorsett, though, is now out with a broken hand.
Blue Jackets -- The Jackets are in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, own the worst record in the NHL over their past 10 games and have lost 15 of their last 17 games. The Blue Jackets have lost nine consecutive road games. They have been outscored 131-105 this season -- their -26 goal differential is the second-worst in the League and the 131 goals-allowed are the worst. This is the season after their goalie, Steve Mason, was runner-up for the Vezina Trophy and won the Calder Trophy. He's been benched in favor of Mathieu Garon. Brassard, thought to be a big loss last season when he injured his shoulder, has only two goals in his last 22 games.
Who's hot -- Columbus right wing Jakub Voracek has four points in the past five games. Trade acquisition Antoine Vermette has three points in the past five games.
Richards, the Stars' No. 1 center, has seven points in the past seven games. Eriksson has five points in three games. Ribeiro has five points in four games. Benn has three points in three games. Robidas has four points in three games.
Injury report -- Dallas right wing Jere Lehtinen sat out the Sharks' game with a groin problem. He missed five games earlier this season to a groin problem and nine games to a chest injury. Daley has missed three games with a shoulder injury and is sidelined indefinitely. Fellow defenseman Mark Fistric suffered a concussion against Atlanta Dec. 17 and is listed as day-to-day.
Blue Jackets left wing Dorsett is out until mid-January with a broken hand. Defenseman Rostislav Klesla has missed 11 games with a torn groin and is out until mid-January. Defenseman Anton Stralman missed two games with illness and may return against the Stars.
Stat pack -- Marty Turco is 14-2-2 lifetime against Columbus. … The Stars were never shorthanded in their 4-2 loss to San Jose; it's the first time they haven't allowed an opposition power play since April 11, 1999, a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The Stars' 11 losses in overtime or shootouts lead the NHL.
Puck drop -- The benching of former first-round draft pick Niskanen, 23, after 95-consecutive starts was even more startling because of the absence of injured defensemen Fistric and Daley. Nicklas Grossman, Robidas and Karlis Skrastins carried most of the defensive load, but AHL callups Maxime Fortunus and Ivan Vishnevskiy played 19:41 and 17:32, respectively. Jeff Woywitka played 13:39. Niskanen averages 19:12. He's minus-9 with only a goal and eight assists.