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Game Preview: Dallas Stars Host Detroit Red Wings (7:00pm CST)

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The league's best power play arrives as the Stars' schedule maintains a high level of difficulty.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL's playoff race continues- And the Dallas Stars are falling behind.

The competitive "peloton" ranges from Winnipeg at 70 points and 5th in the West down to the Los Angeles Kings at 66 and 10th.

The Stars and the Avalanche represent their own, lesser tier, at 62 points and 61 respectively, as they hope to catch the players ahead. Dallas failed at reeling in San Jose Thursday night. The Wild, meanwhile are on an NHL-best 12-2-2 run (really?), rocketing their way far beyond the Stars.

Dallas now occupies a distance 11th place in the Western Conference, and their 62 points would be 10th in the East- Which is where the Red Wings now ply their craft. They sit just five points back of first place...err, Montreal... at 32-14-10- 12 ahead of the Stars in fewer games played.

So they'll try again. This time with Ales Hemsky back in the lineup- reportedly- Though Brendan Ranford seems likely to stick with the team for their upcoming trip, according to Mark Stepneski.

Dallas was badly out-chanced by San Jose Thursday night in a game that could have brought them to the brink of projected playoff contention- But lost 5-2, shrinking in the spotlight.

"We've got to move onto the next one," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We know they are team that has a good power play. Our discipline is going to have to be good. They've got some pretty good finishers. We just have to focus on that."

Dallas' struggle will be to generate offense when Jamie Benn is not on the ice. The captain has been lights-out in recent action as he attempts to put the team on his back, but he has to get some help from the Fiddler and Eakin lines this evening against a good defensive team that will try to shut him down.

The Wings, meanwhile, are not daunted by the road.

They're 8-3-0 on the road since January 6th, including wins in Colorado, Arizona, Edmonton, Calgary, St. Louis, and... Oh, yeah, Chicago.

They are on absolute fire on the road in the West, and Dallas seems to be next on their list of conquests. At 13-2-2 they lead, by far, the Eastern Conference in competency against the league's better half, including a near perfect 8-0-2 against the Central.

After all, it used to be their division. Dallas, meanwhile, has played 21 games against the Central Division and have lost 16 of them.

On the other hand, they've generated 30 or more shots just once in their last 10 tries.

The Red Wings won the first meeting with Dallas this year by the score of 5-2 That was in Detroit on Dec. 4. Detroit has enjoyed mastery of the AAC in the last several years, winning five straight here.

They've been out of sight, out of mind for a couple of years ago, but are still led by the same aging core of names you'll remember and loathe:

Abdelkader-Zetterberg-Pulkkinen
Tatar-Datsyuk-Helm
Nyquist-Sheahan-Weiss
Miller-Andersson-Glendening

Ericsson-Kronwall
Quincey-DeKeyser
Smith-Marchenko

Jimmy Howard
Jonas Gustavsson

They are led on the scoresheet by, no surprises, Henrik Zetterberg (49 points) and Pavel Datsyk (43).

They've cobbled together the league's 8th best offense, 5th best defense, 7th best penalty kill and the number-one (25.9%!) power plays. They seem to be pretty good at, well, everything.

The puck drops at 7:08pm tonight on Fox Sports Southwest.

From Stars PR:

OH CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!
Stars captain Jamie Benn notched two assists on Thursday night for his second consecutive multi-point game and extending his current point streak to five games (6-3=9). The captain has now registered 16 points (9-7=16) over his last 12 games, and has 20 points (10-10=20) in his last 15. Benn is now tied for eighth in the NHL and ranks second on Dallas with 56 points (22-34=56) this season. The native of Victoria, B.C. also shares 14th in the League with 22 goals, while his 24 helpers this season are tied for 15th in the NHL. Benn comes into Saturday's tilt with 11 points (3-8=11) in 15 games against the Red Wings.