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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, December 26th (All times eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (15-11-7) at Dallas Stars (21-10-4), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Dallas has been one of the best home teams this season, which is bad news for a Phoenix club that is struggling on its current road trip.

The Coyotes will look to salvage the finale of a six-game swing tonight and hand the Stars their first regulation loss at American Airlines Center since late October.

Phoenix is just 1-3-1 on its road trip so far and dropped a second straight game on Thursday, falling 4-1 in San Jose. Ray Whitney's power-play goal in the second period was the first of the game, but the Sharks netted the next four goals.

Making his fourth straight start with Ilya Bryzgalov out with an upper-body injury, Jason LaBarbera ended with 35 saves. Phoenix is now 4-6-2 since a seven-game winning streak in November, but LaBarbera is trying to find some positives out of the club's current situation.

"Sometimes it's good to go through stuff like this just to kind of build a little bit of closeness and just kind of get us back to where we need to be," said LaBarbera. "We kind of lost that the last couple of weeks."

Forward Radim Vrbata exited Thursday's game with a lower-body injury and his status for this game is unknown.

LaBarbera is 5-4-1 with a 2.80 goals-against average in his career versus the Stars, while Bryzgalov, who is day-to-day, is 11-7-2 with a 2.32 GAA when facing them.

Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski is slated to play in his 1,000th NHL game tonight. The assistant captain will become the 256th player in league history to reach that mark and fifth this season. He has 132 goals and 478 points over his career, which includes stints Florida, Vancouver and Phoenix.

"Ed is the consummate professional who plays the game hard and is a fierce competitor. We all appreciate his dedication to the Coyotes and his passion for the game of hockey," said Phoenix general manager Don Maloney.

The Stars had a three-game win streak snapped on Thursday with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Flames at American Airlines Center. Calgary's Alex Tanguay forced overtime on a goal with 1:21 left in regulation and had the winner in the shootout.

Mike Ribeiro had a goal and an assist and Brenden Morrow also scored for the Stars, who are 5-1-2 in their last eight games and 11-2-3 over the past 16. Kari Lehtonen made 30 saves in the loss.

"It took us a while to get started," said Ribeiro. "Our best period was the third period. We started skating more and [were] being more involved. If we play three periods tonight, who knows, maybe we win the game."

Despite the loss, Dallas is still 10-0-3 in its last 13 at home, where it hasn't lost in regulation since Oct. 28.

The Stars got a pair of goals from Loui Eriksson and Brad Richards in a 6-3 home win over the Coyotes on Nov. 5, but Phoenix got a measure of revenge on Dec. 11. Shane Doan scored twice in that meeting at the desert, giving the Coyotes a 5-2 triumph.

Phoenix has won eight of the last 11 meetings in this series and six of the last nine played in Dallas.

Lehtonen is 1-0-1 with a 2.91 GAA versus the Coyotes.

12/26 10:31:58 ET

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