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Leaky Dallas Stars Look to Tighten Up on Defense Against New York Rangers

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It's an early start today- 3:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest for your viewing pleasure.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars start their season's final quarter in a bit of interesting spot at American Airlines Center this afternoon against the New York Rangers.

Entering play today they're the top seed in the Western Conference. First place in the Central Division by a point, with a game in hand on both the Blues and Blackhawks both. They're the conference's most improved team. They've the best offense in the West. They've scored more goals than anyone in the NHL at 200, and theirs is a top-five power play.

If someone offered you that deal in September, Stars fan, you'd take it as quickly as you could. It's been a tremendous season.

All of that above to which they've so deservedly laid claim has come in spite of some fairly large holes in their game, however. Their last two weeks have been demonstrative on that front.

They've allowed 22 goals in their last 11 periods of hockey, for starters. The goaltending, to use Lindy Ruff's words, "had a tough night" in the loss to Winnipeg on Thursday. Overall they've dropped four of their last five games.

So is it a rough patch? Is it like January? With 20 games to go they must collect more than half of the points available to host a game 1. St. Louis and Chicago have charged furiously and now look poised to overtake them.

"I've got to get this team in a different place," Ruff told media after the latest debacle against Winnipeg. "We won't win games, obviously, with that many goals-against going in."

A chorus of boos rained down upon them Thursday. Still in first place, though. For now. It's an odd place to be.

As for this afternoon, it's another Saturday game at home. They've played on 10 of the last 11 Saturdays. They've won two of those games. Both against Eastern Conference competition. They've lost 14 Saturday games overall this season, including last week's ugly loss to the Bruins and a 5-1 score to Chicago two weeks before that.

Six of their last 20 games are on Saturdays. It's a weird stat/condition. It shouldn't matter. It has. They'll try it again today- Perhaps an earlier start time will help.

On the New York Rangers' front, the good news is that they went into St. Louis the other night and beat them 2-1. The bad news is that this is a New York Rangers team capable of walking into a Central barn and beating them 2-1.

New York has won four of their last five road games, giving up just 10 total goals in the span- 2.00 GA/G being slightly more desirable than the Stars' results of late.

That starts with Joel Lundqvist's less handsome brother, of course, who stopped 35 of 36 in St. Louis.

You know the Rangers can keep pucks out of their net but did you know they're pretty good at putting them in the opposition's? A bad sign for the leaking Stars. They've Lundqvist and they're also the league's fifth highest scoring team at 2.82 G/G despite their 25th ranked power play.

New York blasted the Stars by a familiar sounding score these days- A 6-2 victory at Madison Square Garden back on January 5th. The Rangers hung five even-strength goals and a shorty on Antti Niemi while Rick Nash recorded three assists, though he won't participate today as he's officially week-to-week with a knee injury.

Their lineup:

Kreider-Stepan-Zuccarello
Miller-Brassard-Fast
Lindberg-Hayes-Stalberg
Glass-Moore-Hrivik

McDonagh-Girardi
Staal-Boyle
Yandle-Klein

Henrik Lundqvist
Antti Raanta

From Stars PR:

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
The Dallas Stars and New York Rangers meet on Saturday afternoon for the second and final time during the 2015-16 regular season. Dallas has collected points in three of their last four games (2-1-1) against the Rangers at American Airlines Center, tallying a 3-2 win on Dec. 29, 2014 in the most recent game between the two teams in Dallas. In the first meeting of the 2015-16 campaign, the Rangers defeated the Stars, 6-2, at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 5. Stars forward Jason Spezza tallied two assists (0-2=2) with defenseman John Klingberg (1-0=1) and forward Antoine Roussel (1-0=1) recording the goals for Dallas. Last season, Dallas swept the season series (2-0-0), recording two victories against the Rangers for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign.

OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Stars captain Jamie Benn tallied an assist (0-1=1) against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night and now has a four-game point streak (3-3=6) and has points in nine of his last 10 games (4-8=12). The captain ranks second in the NHL with 70 points (32-38=70), shares third with 32 goals and is tied for second in the League with 14 power play goals. On home ice this season, Benn leads the NHL with 22 goals and ranks third with 40 points (22-18=40). He has a five-game point streak (2-3=5) at American Airlines Center and has points in 19 of his last 22 games (17-14=31) at home. Benn hasn't recorded a point in eight career games against the New York Rangers, the only NHL club he hasn't registered a point against.