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Stars Vs. Devils: Dallas Looks To Avoid Fifth Straight Loss

(Sports Network) - When Jamie Langenbrunner was traded by the Devils to the Stars in early January, he was going from a last-place team to a playoff contender.

Nearly two months later, New Jersey and Dallas have nearly traded places.

The Devils take aim at an eighth straight victory, while Langenbrunner's Stars hope to avoid a season-worst fifth loss in a row this evening at American Airlines Center.

Seemingly doomed to missing the postseason for the first time since 1996 after a slow start, the Devils shipped Langenbrunner to the Stars on Jan. 7 for draft picks and spent most of the season last in the Eastern Conference. However, New Jersey is 15-1-2 in its last 18 games and has surged to within 10 points of eighth-place Carolina after besting the Hurricanes, 4-1, on Saturday.

Dainius Zubrus scored twice, Henrik Tallinder and Brian Rolston added goals and Patrik Elias finished with three assists for the Devils, who haven't won eight in a row since Oct. 29-Nov. 14, 2009.

"We believe in our group right now, we have a lot of confidence in what we do," said goaltender Johan Hedberg. "When you get the result, you have to believe what you do is right. You can't go away from that."

Hedberg tied a career-high with his sixth straight win after making 24 saves. He was named the NHL's Second Star on Monday after stopping 65-of-68 shots in three victories last week. He'll get the start tonight even though Martin Brodeur is recovered from a right knee injury and is 1-1-0 with a 1.98 goals- against average lifetime versus the Stars in three games, including one start.

Though he didn't score for the first time in five games, Ilya Kovalchuk still extended his point streak to 10 straight games (7 goals, 5 assists) as New Jersey won the opener of a four-game road trip. It has won four straight as the guest overall.

Langenbrunner was still a member of the Devils when they dropped a 4-3 overtime decision at home to the Stars on Oct. 8. Dallas has won five of the past eight meetings overall and four straight at home.

The Devils haven't won in Big D since March 10, 2002 and the Stars would like to keep it that way seeing as they are now tied with four other teams for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference thanks to their second four- game losing streak of the month.

Once a playoff afterthought, the Devils now represent a tough test for the slumping Stars.

"Well, anytime you play an old team, it's a little odd at first, especially since I started the year first and had been there for eight or nine years," Langenbrunner told Dallas' website. "I think once the game gets going and you get into it, it's like any other game. We're playing against a team that's playing extremely well. It'll be a good test for us."

Langenbrunner has a pair of goals and six assists in 17 games with the Stars this year. He picked up that second goal in last Wednesday's loss to the Flames and then notched an assist in Saturday's 5-2 setback in Vancouver.

Brenden Morrow scored his seventh goal in 12 games and James Neal also lit the lamp, while Andrew Raycroft gave up five goals on 38 shots as Dallas played without Brad Richards due to a concussion. Dallas also has four other regulars on injured reserve.

"Right now we're just in a big funk here," Morrow said. "We're going to have to find things out, wait for some troops to get back, but we're running out of time."

Neal's 21st goal of the season turned out to be his last with Dallas after he was traded to the Penguins along with defenseman Matt Niskanen on Monday for blueliner Alex Goligoski.

Goligoski posted nine goals and 22 assists in 60 games with the Penguins this year and should give the Stars an upgrade at the blue line.

Kari Lehtonen should get the start in goal tonight for Dallas and is 6-4-0 with a 3.22 GAA lifetime versus the Devils.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.