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3-4-1

Coyotes-Stars Preview

AP - Sports

The Phoenix Coyotes are probably hoping Mike Smith returns to form when he is back on the ice.

Smith is expected to play for the visiting Coyotes on Friday night when they try to hand the Dallas Stars a fifth straight loss in the opener of a home-and-home set.

Smith will be back for Phoenix (2-4-1) after missing four games with a lower-body injury. Jason LaBarbera and Chad Johnson filled in when he was out.

"It's gotten a lot better over the last few days, so I'm excited to get back in the lineup," Smith told the Coyotes' official website. "I'm ready."

Smith has a 4.62 goals-against average this season. He was spectacular in last season's playoffs with a 1.99 GAA.

The goalie had a rough effort with 22 saves in a 4-3 loss at Dallas (2-4-1) on Jan. 19 in the season opener for both teams. He was outdueled by Kari Lehtonen, who made 37 saves.

Jaromir Jagr scored twice and assisted on the other two goals in his Stars debut while Czech compatriot Radim Vrbata had two goals and an assist for Phoenix.

Dallas hasn't resembled that team often this season, falling 4-1 at Detroit on Tuesday. The Stars are on a 0-3-1 slide and hoping two days off will help them regroup.

"I'd rather go through our growing pains now and get our game in order and make a push at the end," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "It's still a lot of games."

Dallas owns one of the poorer power plays in the league at 16.0 percent after going 0 for 5 against the Red Wings.

"We're just forcing things," Gulutzan said. "We have to be content with dumping it in and grinding it out."

Two Stars will likely make their debuts Friday. Dallas recalled defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and forward Antoine Roussel from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League on Wednesday.

"I think it's a good time to take a look at both kids," general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said. "It gives us a little bit of a different look. We're still searching for our identity."

The Coyotes are seeking their first road win in three tries. They went 1-1-1 on a homestand that ended with Wednesday's 2-1 overtime loss to Edmonton.

Phoenix finished with a 28-21 edge in shots on goal after a 25-21 advantage two days earlier in a 4-0 victory over Nashville.

"I think we've played a lot better as of late," Smith said. "The last couple of games have been more like Coyotes hockey so it's an exciting time to get back in."

Phoenix's ownership situation remains in limbo, but coach Dave Tippett insists that is not distracting his team.

"It's status quo for us,'' Tippett said. "I don't think this is a surprise to anybody around here, so we deal with it like we've dealt with it for 3 1/2 years.''

The Coyotes host the Stars on Saturday night.

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