SHARKS (15-11-5) at STARS (18-10-2)
TV -- CSN-California (HD); FS-Southwest (HD)
Last 10 -- San Jose 5-4-1; Dallas 7-2-1
Season series -- It's the third meeting of the season and the second in four days. Dallas won 5-4 in overtime on Nov. 18 and 3-2 in a shootout on Monday at San Jose.
Big story -- Before the season, it wouldn't have been surprising to expect one of these teams to be in first place in the Pacific Division and one in fourth place. But with Christmas a week away, having the Stars on top of the division and defending Western Conference champion San Jose struggling in fourth has to rate as a stunner. The Stars have helped themselves by dominating at home (11-3-1) and winning four of six shootouts.
Sharks -- San Jose was less than four minutes away from opening its road trip with a victory at Nashville on Wednesday, only to see a 2-1 lead turn into a 3-2 loss after a pair of late goals by the Predators. Sergei Kostitsyn tied the game with 3:16 remaining and Colin Wilson put Nashville ahead to stay with 2:32 to play.
The late meltdown didn't leave coach Todd McLellan in a good frame of mind.
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|Brenden Morrow morning skate - Thu, 16 Dec 2010|
|Marc Crawford morning skate - Thu, 16 Dec 2010|
|Steve Ott morning skate - Thu, 16 Dec 2010|
|Mike Ribeiro morning skate - Thu, 16 Dec 2010|
|Benn & Morrow stick work - morning skate - Thu, 16 Dec 2010|
|HBO Sports' 24/7 Pens/Caps Preview - Wed, 15 Dec 2010|
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Stars -- Dallas has been one of the surprise teams in the League; the Stars enter the night with 38 points and atop the Pacific Division. They're back home for a quick pit stop as part of an eight-game stretch in which they don't play two games in a row in the same city.
"It's been a busy schedule but we're used to that," Stars coach Marc Crawford told the Stars' website. "Travel is always a part of our schedule. After this stretch we have some big home games around the holidays."
The Stars hit the road for weekend games at Columbus and Detroit before finishing the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule with home games against Montreal and Calgary -- their first back-to-back games at the American Airlines Center since Dec. 2-4.
Who's hot -- San Jose's Ryane Clowe has 7 points in his last five games. … Dallas' James Neal has 9 points in his last eight games. … The Stars are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games at home.
Injury report -- San Jose is still without defenseman Kent Huskins and forward Devin Setoguchi, both sidelined with undisclosed injuries. … Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen has missed four games with a back problems, but might be able to play against the Sharks. At worst, he's expected to back up Andrew Raycroft -- the Stars sent Richard Bachman back to the Texas Stars on Wednesday.
Stat pack -- One reason for the Stars' success at the American Airline Center has been the play of center Brad Richards, who has 22 of his 34 points in Dallas' 15 home games. … Dallas has killed all six San Jose power plays in their two meetings this season. … San Jose's Patrick Marleau, who was plus-21 last season, is minus-16 entering the game against the Stars. … Dallas' Mike Ribeiro has three of his five goals this season against San Jose.
Puck drop -- Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk made one of those under-the-radar signings when he brought in Raycroft during the summer. With Lehtonen plagued by injuries for much of his career, Raycroft has given the Stars some good efforts, including a 31-save performance in the victory at San Jose on Monday.
"We are looking to Raycroft, and this is a situation exactly why you have an experienced guy like Andrew Raycroft," Crawford told the Stars' website. "He's been in a position like this many times in his career, he's been a number one goalie. So that's great when you've got your goaltender playing as well as Andrew Raycroft has played for us."