For a Dallas Stars team trying to scratch its way back into the Western Conference playoff picture, perhaps a victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions will give them the momentum they need. Facing the Buffalo Sabres might help sustain that momentum.
The Stars have won seven of 10 matchups in Dallas all-time against the Sabres entering Thursday night's matchup at the American Airlines Center.
The Stars (18-17-6) returned from a four-game road trip on Monday, and defeated Detroit 5-4 to avoid a three-game losing streak. Dallas, which outshot the Red Wings 49-30, improved to 8-2-0 in its last 10 home games.
"When you're pushing people and prodding and thinking you can be better, games like this prove it," Stars coach Dave Tippett said.
The shots on goal were the most for Dallas since it had 50 in a triple-overtime, Stanley Cup-clinching victory at Buffalo on June 19, 1999. Dallas has outshot its opponents by an average of 10.9 during its last nine games, but have gone a middling 5-3-1 during that stretch and remain 13th in the West.
"We have been playing better but the bottom line is we have to start turning the effort into wins," Tippett told the team's official Web site.
After making 28 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to Phoenix on Saturday, Marty Turco stopped 26 shots in Monday's win. He has not fared particularly well in limited action against Buffalo, going 1-3-0 with a 3.20 goals-against average in his career.
If he starts on Thursday, Turco will move past Cesare Maniago into sole possession of first place on the Stars' all-time list for games in goal with 421.
Buffalo (21-17-5) enters the finale of its three-game road swing trying to avoid a winless trip. After entering this trip with a four-game winning streak, the Sabres fell 3-1 at Detroit last Saturday and 4-1 in Chicago on Wednesday.
They went 0-for-7 on the power play against the Blackhawks, including an eight-minute stretch with the man advantage.
"The power play wasn't very good and obviously they got some momentum off that," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "We need to pick up that area of our game. We had some good opportunities and have got to put them away."
The Sabres could find scoring on the power play easier against the Stars, whose 77.4 penalty killing percentage ranks near the bottom of the NHL.
In his first start since Dec. 26, Sabres backup Patrick Lalime had 21 saves versus Chicago.
"Personally it seems that I can be better," said Lalime, who fell to 2-6-1 on the season. "We didn't capitalize on our chances, but still we didn't give them much."
Though Buffalo has not historically fared well in Dallas, it has won three straight meetings overall with the Stars. Dallas' last victory over the Sabres was a 3-0 home win on March 31, 2003.