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Game Preview: Florida Panthers @ Dallas Stars (7:30pm CST)

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The Stars enter fresh off victories against the Rangers and Bruins- But the Panthers have impressed lately as well.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars continued their statistically improbable season in the north east over the weekend and into this week- Dominating Buffalo but losing, then seeing the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins run all over them- Yet they won both games.

And so it goes- They're now eight points away from the 5th place Jets with three games in-hand, and everything else between is equally tight. Opportunity to move-up abounds. Consistency is the obstacle.

The home record must improve, for one. It began poorly, got better, and has now taken another turn for the worst. You, the season ticket holder, have attended three straight losses, and have departed with disappointment in five of their last seven at American Airlines Center.

Dallas has been stellar on the road of late: 9-3-2 in their last 14. They've got to find some advantage on home ice if they're to make up a lot of ground in a very short time.

Thursday was a pretty newsy day in Frisco. Here's the run down in case you missed it:

  • Patrik Nemeth practiced without the no-contact jersey.
  • Jhonas Enroth did not arrive in time for practice, but is expected to wear #1 and is expected to play Saturday.
  • Antoine Roussel was suspended two games for cross-checking Adam McQuaid in the throat.
  • And Tyler Seguin is, evidently, still ill as he missed practice. He is expected to play this evening.
  • Curtis McKenzie was re-called from the Texas Stars.
  • Kari Lehtonen will start on Friday.

The talk from the media surrounded Enroth and Lehtonen. The Stars will say only that they feel they've improved their club- And many of the same questions regarding competition and "pushing their starter" surfaced as they did last season with the arrival of Tim Thomas.

The Panthers seek to do the Stars no end of harm on this trip, unfortunately losing to the Wild on the road last night by a score of 2-1 despite holding them to just 23 shots and earning five power plays to Minnesota's two.

If anything, that's a warning to the Stars: The Panthers can come to your building and out-chance you. They're still fighting to catch the Boston Bruins for the 8th spot in the East. They'll be hungry to get that one back.

Scarier than that? Their record recently against some high-quality competition.

While the Stars languished against the Avalanche and the Sabres the Florida Panthers have been making some serious noise against the best the league has to offer.

They're beating much higher quality competition, and they're holding them to two goals a night. No more.

More than that, they've allowed a total of just four even-strength goals over their last five games. The penalty kill has been a bit leaky, allowing eight goals in their last seven contests- But they're just not getting scored on at even-strength right now.

Looking past this team would be a mistake.

They're good on the second night of a back-to-back as well, recording points in five of their first six tries (3-1-2) this season.

Doing the damage for them this season is Nick Bjugstad (34 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (31), Aaron Ekblad (31) and former Star Jussi Jokinen (28). Right winger Jimmy Hayes is also one to keep an eye on with 16 goals on the season already. The 25-year old is having quite a sophomore season.

Their lineup, or something like it:

Huberdeau-Barkov-Boyes
Hayes-Bjugstad-Jokinen
Fleischmann-Bolland-Upshall
Bergenheim-Mackenzie-Thornton

Campbell-Ekblad
Kulikov-Gudbrandson
Petrovic-Kampfer

Roberto Luongo
Al Montoya

It's a nice lineup on paper, with a mix of promising young talent and veterans- And they've got two lines that can score. An ill Tyler Seguin will have to keep up for the Stars to match with two threatening lines of their own.

Luongo played last night in Minnesota- But they're chasing a playoff spot. He could play again. That being said, Montoya recently beat the now-mighty Islanders.

From Stars PR:

"IT''S MADE WITH BITS OF REAL PANTHER, SO YOU KNOW IT'S GOOD"


The Dallas Stars return home to host the Florida Panthers on Friday at American Airlines Center in the club's first game in 11 seasons without Stars PR guru Greg Ramirez. Friday's contest marks the first of two matchups scheduled between the clubs during the 2014-15 regular season. Dallas went 0-2-0 against the Panthers last season and come into Friday's tilt having dropped three-straight to Florida. The Stars are looking for their first home win over Florida since a 4-3 victory on Dec. 7, 2005, as the club has posted a 0-3-1 mark at American Airlines Center since then. Forward Tyler Seguin shared the team lead with two points (1-1=2) in two games against the Panthers last season, and comes into Friday's matchup with five points (1-4=5) over his last five games against them and nine points (1-8=9) in his last eight.