This upcoming stretch for the Dallas Stars could feel like the postseason for more than one reason.
The Stars and Anaheim Ducks meet three straight times over the next five nights to complete their season series, beginning with Monday's matchup in Dallas.
These Pacific Division rivals will get well acquainted with each other this week, with meetings also set for Wednesday and Friday in Anaheim. But while the Ducks (23-7-5) are cruising with an eight-point lead atop the division for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, the Stars (16-15-3) are in a three-way tie for the 10th-highest point total in the conference with 35 - two out of a playoff spot.
"It's like a mini-playoff series," Dallas center Jamie Benn said. "We know what they're all about. They've obviously a good team, they're having a good season."
The Stars have gone 5-0-2 in their last seven home meetings with the Ducks, with low-scoring affairs in both this season. Loui Eriksson had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory Feb. 8 while the Ducks won 2-1 in a shootout March 14.
The last matchup did not feature Benn or Ducks star Corey Perry. Benn was out with a wrist injury while Perry was serving a four-game suspension for a hit on Minnesota's Jason Zucker.
Benn enters with seven points in his last five games, but the Stars are looking to regroup after being outshot 40-15 in Sunday's 3-2 home loss to Los Angeles.
"We're fighting for our lives here," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "After an embarrassing outing in front of our home fans like that, we better come out hard tomorrow."
Kari Lehtonen, who is 7-1-3 with a 1.88 goals-against average in his last 11 starts against Anaheim, was a lone bright spot versus the Kings with 37 saves.
"We just got to find a way to help our goalie, he can't stop everything," defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "It could have been pretty ugly if he had an off game."
Anaheim fell for the fifth time in six games with Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss at Columbus despite outshooting the Blue Jackets 30-18.
"We play well and we keep pushing and pushing and we're missing opportunities," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I mean, they're right in front of the net."
Rookie Emerson Etem's third-period goal was all the Ducks mustered. They have scored eight goals over their last six games, are in a 1-for-23 slump on the power play and have gone 0 for 19 with the man advantage in their last six contests against the Stars.
"We're really struggling scoring goals right now and our power play isn't coming around," Boudreau said.
Ducks top scorer Ryan Getzlaf has no points in his last eight games against the Stars, with no goals in his last 13 on the road in the series. Perry has no goals and two assists in his last six against Dallas.
Jonas Hiller made 16 saves Sunday for the Ducks, but Viktor Fasth could receive his first career start against Dallas.
The NHL's oldest skaters will be on display as 42-year-old Teemu Selanne of Anaheim and 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr of Dallas take the ice. Neither has a point in the season series.
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