(Sports Network) - The Dallas Stars opted to keep pending free agent Brad Richards rather then deal him before Monday's trade deadline, but the center won't be able to repay the club by contributing on the ice tonight.
While Richards continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms, the Stars try to win three straight for the first time in over a month as they visit the Phoenix Coyotes, who are hoping to avoid a season-worst fourth consecutive setback this evening at Jobing.com Arena.
The Stars are trying to right the ship after a 1-8-1 stretch that knocked them down the Western Conference standings. Dallas is currently tied with Minnesota and Nashville for the final playoff spot in the West, with Anaheim just a point back as well. With 72 points, the Stars are also six back of first-place San Jose in the Pacific Division.
After ending a five-game losing streak last Thursday with a win at Detroit, the Stars returned home to post a 3-2 victory over the Predators on Saturday. Defenseman Alex Goligoski, acquired early last week from Pittsburgh for James Neal and Matt Niskanen, scored the game-tying goal at 6:02 of the third before setting up Loui Eriksson's game-winner with 3:42 to play.
"I think it's a huge win," Goligoski said after his third game with the Stars. "Trailing going into the third period, a big road trip coming up, this was a big game, and obviously where they were in the standings and where we were, it was a big win, definitely."
Kari Lehtonen turned aside 25-of-27 shots in the win, while Tom Wandell scored for his first point since Dec. 16.
Dallas played without Richards and blueliner Nicklas Grossman (hip) for a sixth straight game. The Stars are hoping to get Richards back during its upcoming four-game road trip that starts tonight, possibly as early as Friday.
"I think in my mind, I wasn't going to move him unless someone really knocked our socks off with something we couldn't refuse," Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk told his team's website of Richards. "We've said all along we want to sign Brad and we still feel that way."
Dallas has lost seven of its last eight on the road and hasn't won three straight since a five-game win streak from Jan. 9-20.
Phoenix dropped back-to-back games in regulation following an eight-game win streak, then was able to manage a point in Sunday's 4-3 shootout loss to Chicago to wrap a five-game road trip 2-2-1. That has the Coyotes two points back of the Sharks in the Pacific Division.
Adrian Aucoin returned from a five-game absence due to a lower-body injury to score, with fellow blueliner Keith Yandle also posting a goal. Martin Hanzal had the game-tying tally with 2:59 left in the third and Ilya Bryzgalov made 38 saves prior to allowing the shootout's only goal.
"It was tough being down in that game and being able to battle back was huge," Yandle said. "[Bryzgalov] shut the door and we were able to find some goals on the power play. I think it was a big moral victory for us even coming back and tying it."
Forward Ray Whitney was back in the lineup after missing three contests due to his own lower-body injury, while winger Scottie Upshall returned from a two- game suspension for an illegal hit. His presence in the lineup was short- lived, though, with Phoenix dealing Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto to Columbus for Rostislav Klesla and a minor league forward.
Upshall was tied for the club lead with 16 goals, while Klesla hasn't played since Jan. 22 due to a knee injury and has three goals and 10 points in 45 games. Klesla, though, is expected to play tonight and will help replace the injured Ed Jovanovski, who suffered multiple orbital bone fractures on Jan. 17.
The Coyotes opened up their season series with the Stars on Nov. 5 by losing a 6-3 decision in Dallas, with Richards and Eriksson scoring twice, but have won the past three meetings since.
Phoenix has won 10 of the past 13 meetings overall and got a goal and two assists from Yandle in a 5-2 home win back on Dec. 11. Shane Doan also scored twice as the Coyotes bested the Stars at Jobing.com Arena for the fifth time in the last six matchups there.
Bryzgalov is an excellent 8-2-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last 11 versus Dallas, while Lehtonen is 1-1-2 with a 2.46 GAA against Phoenix.