(Sports Network) - The Dallas Stars will take aim at a fourth straight victory when they visit the Anaheim Ducks for tonight's Pacific Division showdown at the Honda Center. The Stars have won three straight on the heels of a five-game slide and are currently just outside the Western Conference playoff picture. With 74 points, Dallas is tied for ninth in the West and is one point in back of Nashville and Calgary for the conference's last two postseason berths.
Dallas is also fourth in the Pacific Division and eight points behind first- place San Jose. Anaheim and the Stars have met three times this season, but tonight marks the first encounter between the clubs since Nov. 16, when Dallas recorded a 2-1 regulation win. The Ducks have still taken two of three in the season series and four of seven overall from the Stars.
Dallas, which is 16-14-1 as the guest this year, has also dropped three in a row and four of its last five in Anaheim. The Stars are hoping to have centerman Brad Richards back on the ice soon, as the club's leading scorer has sat out the last seven games with a concussion. Richards, who has 24 goals and 63 points this year, is questionable for this evening's contest and is expected to return at some point during Dallas' four- game road trip.
The Stars opened the swing on Tuesday by notching a thrilling victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. Jamie Benn scored a power-play goal with 4.8 seconds left in regulation to lift Dallas to the 3-2 decision at Jobing.com Arena. The game appeared to be headed for overtime after Phoenix erased a 2-0 deficit in the third period on goals by newcomer Rostislav Klesla and Ray Whitney, the latter coming with 37.7 seconds remaining and the goaltender pulled.
But, Phoenix's Radim Vrbata went off for hooking with 13 seconds to play and Dallas took advantage of the penalty. During the ensuing power play, Mike Ribeiro dug the puck out of the left corner to Loui Eriksson and Eriksson dished to Benn, who beat Ilya Bryzgalov on the glove side. "Give credit to (Phoenix) for battling to the end there, but that was such a huge play by Benn with barely any time left to get the win for us," said Stars forward Jamie Langenbrunner.
Kari Lehtonen made 25 saves for Dallas, which had also lost nine out of 10 games before this current winning streak. The Ducks, who are one point in back of Dallas in the standings, have won their last two games after a five-game skid and they're coming off Wednesday's dramatic win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings. Bobby Ryan scored on a penalty shot with 2:10 to play in overtime, lifting Anaheim to the 2-1 decision at Honda Center.
Ryan was hauled down by Ruslan Salei on a breakaway and awarded the first penalty shot of his career. He skated in on net and buried a wrister past Jimmy Howard for the win and his 30th goal of the year. "I just tried to close my eyes and put it in the right place," Ryan said. Jason Blake scored in the third period while Dan Ellis stopped 28 shots for the win. Ellis has started the last three games for Anaheim and is expected to get the call again tonight.
Ellis is 5-4-0 with a 2.43 goals-against average in his career against the Stars, while Lehtonen is 2-4-0 with a 3.04 GAA in six lifetime tests against Anaheim.
For more news on tonight's game, be sure to read Anaheim Calling.