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Vanek Returns as Sabres Host Stars

6:01 PM, Feb 10, 2012   |    comments
Courtesy: US Presswire
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (Sports Network) - The Dallas Stars have yet to win the back end when playing games on consecutive nights. That won't make ending their lengthy losing streak in Buffalo any easier.

The Stars try to pick up their first road win against the Sabres in over 14 years, but in addition to having some tired legs they'll also likely be going up against the returning Thomas Vanek.

Dallas is coming off last night's 4-2 victory at Columbus in which the club used a fast start to roll to its fourth victory in six games. Jamie Benn scored just 1:35 into the game, Alex Goligoski lit the lamp less than three minutes later and Stephane Robidas scored early in the second.

Benn added his second goal of the night on an empty-net tally and Kari Lehtonen made 26 saves while allowing a pair of power-play goals for the Stars, who still sit two points back of a playoff spot despite the win. Dallas is tied with Minnesota and Calgary for the ninth spot in the Western Conference.

"It was a big start, getting those two goals was huge. Getting some momentum on the road for our team was big. You definitely want that in the first period," said Benn, who has four goals and two assists over his past five games.

It was a good sign for Dallas as it came two nights after a lackluster 4-1 setback to Phoenix.

"I think our work ethic was a lot better tonight," surmised Goligoski.

Dallas is playing on back-to-back nights for the 10th time this year and improved to 5-4-1 in the first half of those contests. However, the Stars are 0-8-1 in the second half of that scenario.

The Stars will look to break that trend tonight and earn their first regular- season victory in Buffalo since Oct. 7, 1997. They are 0-5 with a tie in six trips since, though they did snap a five-game series losing streak to the Sabres with last season's 4-0 home win.

The Sabres await the Stars coming off perhaps their best game of the season. Buffalo hosted the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Wednesday and sent the Northeast Division leaders out of town with a 6-0 loss. Ryan Miller made 36 saves to record his second shutout in three games, third of the season and 25th of his career.

Jason Pominville scored twice and Tyler Ennis had a goal and an assist in the win. Christian Ehrhoff, Patrick Kaleta and Drew Stafford all scored for the Sabres, who improved to 4-0-1 since losing eight of nine. Miller has a 0.95 goals-against average and .969 save percentage over that point streak, which is the longest for Buffalo since it ended last season on a 5-0-1 run.

"I thought our guys really raised their compete level the last four or five games," Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said. "We've really played hard and had some things start to go well."

Ruff watched Wednesday's game from the press box after breaking three ribs in a collision with Jordan Leopold at practice on Monday.

Buffalo is hoping to win three in a row for the first time since a four-game burst from Nov. 4-11 and could have Vanek back after he sat out the past three games with an upper-body injury. He practiced with the team again on Thursday and said he hoped to return to action on Friday.

"We put him through a battery of extra tests there after practice. We'll see how he's feeling in the morning," said Ruff. "He's the only one who really knows whether he can go or not. If he said he's ready to go, and doesn't have any ill effects from what happened today, then he'll be back in."

Vanek is tied with Pominville for the team lead with 19 goals and is second in assists (22) and points (41).

The Sabres won the opener of a four-game homestand and are playing eight of their next nine as the host. They are 5-0-4 in their past nine at home.

Miller is 3-0-0 with a 2.59 GAA lifetime versus the Stars.

 

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