Season series: This is the fourth and final matchup this season between these Pacific Division rivals. The Stars hold a 2-1-0 edge, with one of those wins coming in a shootout on Feb. 1 in Dallas.
Big story: Dallas has started March on a roll, but Phoenix has struggled a little in the last couple of weeks, as its normally stout defense appears to have sprung a leak.
Coyotes: Despite winning two games in an unusual three-game set against the Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix gave up 10 goals in those three games, well above what hockey fans have come to expect from the Coyotes' tight defense. Opening up a three-game homestand against St. Louis on Thursday, Phoenix hoped to rediscover the impenetrable defense that helped lead it to the Western Conference Finals last spring. That didn't happen and St. Louis won 6-3.
Despite the recent non-stingy defense, the Coyotes continue to boast one of the Western Conference’s highest scoring offenses. Phoenix is tied for the third most goals in the West (70) after 24 games. Only Anaheim (81) and Chicago (80) have scored more.
Head Coach Dave Tippett, who is 12-5-4 against his former team including a 7-2-1 mark vs. the Stars at Jobing.com Arena, is expecting his team to play better in the second half of the season than it did in the first 24 games when it posted a ho-hum 11-10-3 record.
"I would say we’ve kept ourselves in the mix, but I think there’s room for improvement in our group," Tippett said. "The last few years, we’ve been viewed as a team that’s overachieved. I don’t think we’ve overachieved to this point yet. I think there’s still room for growth."
Defenseman Keith Yandle agreed.
"We know we can be better. We know we’re a better team than we’re showing," Yandle said. "One game above .500 isn’t exactly where we want to be. We have high expectations for ourselves. We know that every year coming in. And ‘Tip’ obviously has high expectations for us."
The Coyotes will enter the game tied for second in the NHL with a 53.0 face-off percentage. Antoine Vermette leads the team and is fith in the NHL (among those with 20 or more FO) with a 61.0 face-off percentage.
Forward Rob Klinkhammer, whom Phoenix recalled from the American Hockey League on Friday, is expected to make his debut for the Coyotes in this game. Klinkhammer has played 16 NHL games - one for Chicago and 15 for Ottawa.
Stars: Dallas started a modest two-game road swing on Thursday in Los Angeles against the Kings. The mini-road trip precedes a run in which the Stars will play nine of 11 games within the friendly confines of American Airlines Center.
Thursday night against the Kings, Jaromir Jagr opened the scoring for Dallas on the power play, marking the third straight game the 41-year-old wing has managed to find the back of the net. Trevor Lewis tied the game for Los Angeles later in the period before Jeff Carter notched his 16th goal of the season to give the Kings a 2-1 lead with 4:30 remaining in the middle frame.
But Dallas responded with another power-play goal, as Cody Eakin found daylight on a rush before putting a rising backhand past Jonathan Quick. That set the stage for a wild third in which the Stars scored three unanswered goals for a 5-2 win, despite being outshot 12-8 in the period. One of those third-period goals belonged to Jagr, giving him 674 in his illustrious career, the 10th highest total in NHL history.
Who's hot: Doan, Yandle and Steve Sullivan all have four points in their last five games... For Dallas, Jagr has four goals in his last three games while Eakin has six points in his last five games.
Injury report: The Coyotes will be missing David Schlemko (upper body) and Radim Vrbata (lower body), who are both on injured reserve. ... Philip Larsen missed Thursday's game for Dallas with an upper-body injury, while Aaron Rome (foot) and Ray Whitney (foot) are on IR.
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