A pair of struggling teams will battle for two points on Friday, as the Dallas Stars host the Phoenix Coyotes at American Airlines Center in the opener of a home-and-home series.
Both the Stars and Coyotes have 2-4-1 records so far this season, tying them for last place in the division. Dallas has struggled more than the Coyotes recently, losing four straight heading into this contest.
Friday's tilt marks the second meeting between the rivals this season. Dallas posted a 4-3 home win over the Coyotes to open the season on Jan. 19, giving the Stars four wins in the last seven encounters. Phoenix has lost three of its previous four games in Big D.
The clubs will meet Saturday at Jobing.com Arena, where the Coyotes have taken three of the last four matchups.
Dallas lost its fourth straight game Tuesday in Detroit, as the Red Wings used a pair of goals from Valtteri Filppula and 25 saves from Jimmy Howard to cruise to the 4-1 win at Joe Louis Arena.
Kari Lehtonen made 21 saves for the Stars in defeat, while Loui Eriksson scored the team's only goal.
In light of the recent slide, the Stars are shaking up the roster a bit heading into this contest. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and forward Antoine Roussel were both recalled from the AHL's Texas Stars on Wednesday and are expected to make their NHL debuts on Friday. Forward Reilly Smith was sent down to the AHL to make room.
"I think it's a good time to take a look at both kids," Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said. "It gives us a little bit of a different look. We're still searching for our identity."
Oleksiak was the 14th overall pick of the 2011 draft and is one of Dallas' top prospects. The 6-foot-7 blueliner had three goals, 20 assists and a plus-12 rating in 43 games for the Texas Stars this season and was voted into the AHL All-Star Game.
Roussel, an undrafted free agent out of France, had eight goals and 19 points in 41 games for the Texas Stars in 2012-13.
For the Coyotes, Friday's game comes hours after the franchise's latest prospective buyer fell through. Greg Jamison, who had a provisional deal in place to purchase the Coyotes, missed Thursday's midnight deadline to officially buy the club from the NHL.
The NHL has retained control of the franchise since November of 2009, purchasing it from Jerry Moyes and rescuing the team from bankruptcy. Jamison's failure to meet the deadline opens the door for another buyer to step in and purchase the club from the league.
Not being able to find a new owner hasn't stopped Phoenix from making the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, but the Coyotes do not look like a postseason club in the early going in 2013. The team has dropped five of seven games to begin the season, but Phoenix could receive a boost from the return of No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith.
Smith has missed the last four games with a groin injury, but he's eligible to come off injured reserve on Friday and is expected to start against the Stars.
"It's gotten a lot better over the last few days, so I'm excited to get back in the lineup," Smith said on Thursday. "I'm ready."
Smith is 5-1-4 with a 2.14 goals against average in 10 career games against Dallas. He went 3-0-3 with a 1.28 GAA in six starts versus the Stars in 2011-12.
The Coyotes were fortunate to earn a point in Wednesday's loss to visiting Edmonton. Nick Johnson scored with 19 seconds left in regulation to help Phoenix force overtime, but Nail Yakupov scored with 1:08 left in the extra session to lift the Oilers to the 2-1 win.
On the power play in the extra session, a shot from Taylor Hall at the right point hit off the hand of Ray Whitney in the slot and popped into the air. Parked at the right side, Yakupov whacked it in for the winner.
"I thought we competed hard and did some good things out there tonight," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett. "We had lots of chances out there in the third period to take the win, but we didn't do it and that's the way it goes sometimes."
Chad Johnson made 19 saves in the loss.
Phoenix forwards Martin Hanzal and Steve Sullivan are questionable for Friday's game with lower body injuries.