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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, January 3rd (All times eastern)

Dallas Stars (16-15-5) at Edmonton Oilers (17-16-3), 10 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A strong December has the once left-for-dead Dallas Stars back in the playoff hunt. They hope to begin the month of January on a roll and will visit the Edmonton Oilers for tonight's contest at Rexall Place.

The Stars finished last season with 97 points and entered the postseason as the fifth seed, making it all the way to the Western Conference finals before being eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

Dallas then added grit in the offseason by signing Sean Avery and also won the services of Swede Fabian Brunnstrom, but did not get off to the best of starts. The Stars went just 8-11-4 over the season's first two months. However, Dallas soon began to turn things around in December and that swing interestingly began with a suspension to Avery for comments made about off- the-ice issues involving his ex-girlfriends.

That suspension took place on December 1 in Calgary and the ultimate conclusion to that was Avery not being welcomed back to the Dallas organization once the ban was over. Minus the Avery circus, the Stars went 8-4-1 in December and, though it is still early, are now just three points out of a playoff spot.

One player who kept Dallas competitive was Loui Eriksson, who had two goals in Wednesday's 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils in the Stars' final game of 2008. Eriksson netted 14 goals in 69 games last year but already has 20 in 36 contests this season.

Marty Turco made 25 saves in the win over the Devils, Brad Richards had three assists and Mark Parrish and Landon Wilson notched the other goals for the Stars, who have won three of their last four.

Dallas begins the year with a four-game road trip and is 7-9-2 as the visiting team this year.

The Oilers, meanwhile, play the first of five straight at home tonight and are 6-6-3 at Rexall Place this season. The club was last in action on Wednesday as well, but that contest versus the Calgary Flames ended with a 6-4 loss.

Denis Grebeshkov posted a goal and three helpers for the Oilers, who have dropped five of their last eight games. Erik Cole had a goal and an assist, while Robert Nilsson and Lubomir Visnovsky added goals each.

The Oilers played without leading scorer Ales Hemsky for a second straight game due to a nose injury. He is questionable for tonight.

Dwayne Roloson yielded five goals on 36 shots and has yet to face the Stars this year despite this being the third meeting of the season between the clubs. Roloson is 3-6-2 with a pair of ties and a 2.87 goals against average in his career versus the Stars.

Dallas recorded a home win over Edmonton on November 30, but was beaten in Edmonton three days later to snap their seven-game series winning streak. The setback also halted their run of seven consecutive wins in Edmonton.

Turco is 16-5-0 with a 2.23 GAA and three shutouts in his career against the Oilers.

01/03 10:55:51 ET

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