NHL

Stars-Coyotes Preview

After securing a playoff berth, the Dallas Stars are hungry for more.

The Western Conference leaders look for a fourth consecutive victory Thursday night as they visit the Arizona Coyotes.

Vernon Fiddler scored two of his team's four first-period goals to help Dallas (44-21-9) clinch a playoff spot with Tuesday's 6-2 rout at Chicago.

"It's really step one in what we are trying to accomplish," coach Lindy Ruff said. "Clinching is really important, but now it's moving on and making sure our game's in the right place. We've been playing some good hockey lately.''

Back in the playoffs after missing out for the sixth time in seven years last season, the Stars hold a two-point lead over St. Louis in the Central Division and conference.

''We're not going to sit back,'' said forward Colton Sceviour, who had a goal and an assist Tuesday. ''There's still a lot of stuff that can be accomplished and obviously the division is so tight that if you let up, all of a sudden you're not in the position you wanted to be in.

"We're in a good spot right now."

The NHL's highest-scoring team has outscored its last three opponents 13-5 and averaged 3.6 goals while going 8-2-2 in its last 12 on the road. Ex-Coyote Fiddler snapped a seven-game point drought Tuesday.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 27 shots in Saturday's 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders, then made 30 saves for his third straight victory and sixth in eight starts Tuesday.

Likely to make a fifth consecutive start, Lehtonen has a 1.20 goals-against average during a five-game winning streak against the Coyotes (32-34-7), last facing them Dec. 31, 2014.

Antti Niemi, who's posted a 4.72 GAA in his last six outings, gave up five goals as the Stars' three-game series winning streak ended with a 6-3 road defeat Feb. 18.

Max Domi had two goals and an assist and fellow rookie Anthony Duclair recorded three assists for the Coyotes, who followed that victory with a season-high seven-game slide.

Arizona, though, beat Edmonton 4-2 on Tuesday for its fourth victory in six games. Martin Hanzal had a goal and an assist and Domi snapped a 13-game goal drought as the Coyotes broke out after being blanked in the previous two contests.

Back after missing six games with an upper-body injury, team points leader Oliver Ekman-Larsson had an assist and posted a plus-3 rating for the second time in his last three games - both of those wins.

Ekman-Larsson, whose average of 24 minutes, 38 seconds of ice time leads the team, played 20:50 despite it being his first game in two weeks.

"You can't replace that guy," Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith said. "He's a special player and when he's out … our defense has done a great job filling the void, but those minutes, the skill and the leadership is a lot to cover for."

Smith has gone 3-1-0 with a 1.25 GAA since missing 40 games with a lower-body injury. He's lost four in a row against the Stars, last facing them in November 2014.

Dallas captain Jamie Benn has recorded a point in six straight road games and 13 in the last 10 away from home. He has two goals and three assists in the past three overall against Arizona.

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