Game Preview: Dallas Stars @ Anaheim Ducks (9:30pm CST)

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Trying desperately to put themselves back in the playoff conversation the Stars face a nearly unbeatable Duck team in Anaheim tonight.

The Dallas Stars got passed again by the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference standings Friday night, and their time is running short ahead of the Olympic break.

"We've got our final push before the break and we just want to focus on what's ahead of us." coach Lindy Ruff told media after Friday's practice. "We've got to play some good teams and we're going into their buildings. It's not going to be easy, and then we come home for one. We'll take it one game at a time, but if we can play .750 hockey we'll get back up in the standings."

.750 hockey in this four game stretch, and it might be necessary for the duration- But they know their task and call it by name now.

Ruff is calling many things the way he sees them lately, including remarking that the American Airlines Center crowd might have given them "a standing ovation" for a shot on goal in the third period of Thursday night's loss to the New Jersey Devils. Dallas managed just two shots on goal in the frame's first nine minutes as the Devils clogged up the works.

The Ducks won't be quite as stingy, but that doesn't stop them from dominating with their surplus of skill and size.

The Stars recalled Dustin Jeffrey for insurance on the road trip as an extra forward but should roll with relatively the same lineup that's been serving them through this fortunate stretch of health.

Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin
Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt
Whitney-Fiddler-Cole
Peverley-Horcoff-Chiasson

With Ruff's stated goal of taking three of the last four before the break, if not better, it would be surprising to see anyone but Kari Lehtonen start in the Dallas net.

The Ducks were famed for their 20-0-2 start at home but have proven vulnerable there lately. Kind of.

Winnipeg snapped their 10-game win streak at Honda Center with a 3-2 win last week- The Duck's first regulation home loss. Then Minnesota did it again seven days later with a 4-2 victory on the strength of a Zach Parise game winner.

So there's a little hope where there was nearly zero before.

Then there's the part where the Ducks lead the league, by far, with 85 points. And there's their +52 goal differential, their league best 1.47 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio, their league best 38 ROW's, and their league's second-best 3.34 GF/game.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have the two best plus/minus ratings in the league among all forwards, and are both top-five in scoring.

Universally lauded for being the hottest team in the NHL this season, there might be those who wonder at their ability to last throughout. Anaheim has one of the league's better PDO's, which is to say they have a high shooting percentage/save percentage combination that, over the course of 82 games, might be prone to regression.

They went through a "lost 8 of 11" run in November, including that 6-3 loss to Dallas, and still boast a 40-11-5 run. Incredible.

Their lineup:

Penner-Getzlaf-Perry
Maroon-Perreault-Selanne
Winnik-Koivu-Cogliano
Palmieri-Bonino-Beleskey

Beauchemin-Lindholm
Lovejoy-Fowler
Fistric-Sbisa

Between Fistric and Sheldon Souray, there's news about former Dallas Stars d-men all over the place:

Ducks defenseman Mark Fistric was at Disneyland with his son Wednesday when he finalized a $3.8-million, three-year contract extension.

"Pretty special day for my family," Fistric said. "We really love it here. I love the team, the guys, coming to the rink every day [even] when I wasn't playing."

Fistric, 27, has played in 27 of 55 games for the NHL-leading team (39-11-5) after being obtained as a free agent in the summer following what turned out to be a season-ending conditioning injury to veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray. [LA Times]

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