Thanks in part to a red-hot rookie goaltender, the Anaheim Ducks look like a vastly improved team from the one that flopped against the Dallas Stars last season.
The visiting Ducks could start Victor Fasth in goal as they search for a fifth straight victory Friday night in Dallas, where they failed to solve Kari Lehtonen in their last two visits.
Anaheim (7-1-1) opened a six-game trip Wednesday with a 3-0 victory over Colorado. Fasth made 31 saves for his first shutout as he lowered his goals-against average to an NHL-best 0.98.
"It's nothing you go and think about. You just try to do your best and help the team out as much as you can,' said the 30-year-old rookie, who was the Swedish Elite League's goaltender of the year the last two seasons. "I'm really glad I had (the shutout). It's a little bonus. Most important thing is we got the win and started off this road trip really good.'
Fasth could be the difference Friday for the Ducks, who went 1-5-0 against the Stars (5-5-1) last season.
Lehtonen went 4-1-0 with a 1.40 GAA in the season series, including shutouts in Anaheim's last two trips to the American Airlines Center.
While Lehtonen is a good bet to make his ninth start of the season, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has to choose between the surging Fasth and Jonas Hiller, who is 3-1-1 with a 3.54 GAA.
Hiller has posted a 3.04 GAA in losing his last six starts against Dallas. Fasth, meanwhile, is the first goalie to win his first four starts since Nolan Schaefer did it for San Jose in 2005.
Boudreau has not named his starter for Friday.
"Hilly will be playing very soon,' Boudreau said. "He will be doing the same thing, I hope.'
Boudreau has received strong recent production from defenseman Sheldon Souray, who has three goals and an assist over a three-game point streak. Souray signed with Anaheim as a free agent after he had 21 points in 64 games for the Stars a season ago.
Saku Koivu also has four points (two goals, two assists) over his last three games, and he thinks that the Ducks must improve.
"We gave up too many 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s, probably more than we've had in the last five games," Koivu said.
Dallas is also unhappy with its play despite winning three of four after Jaromir Jagr scored in overtime in Wednesday's 3-2 victory at Edmonton.
"It's definitely not pretty out there," said Jamie Benn, who had a goal and an assist. "We're getting the job done right now but we've got to get better as a team, do the right things, get pucks deep."
Benn led Dallas with eight points against Anaheim last season while Michael Ryder and Alex Goligoski each tied for the team lead with three goals.
Anaheim's Teemu Selanne had a team-high five points in the season series and Koivu a team-best three goals but Ryan Getzlaf came up empty in the six games.
Getzlaf, with a goal and four assists, has one point in each of his last five games.
Dallas has been short-handed a league-high 54 times. Anaheim owns one of the NHL's best power plays at 26.7 percent.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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