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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, February 27th (All times Eastern)

Carolina Hurricanes (26-23-9) at Dallas Stars (27-21-10), 8:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - Jamie Benn has been one of the leaders for the Dallas Stars this season and he kept that mentality going on the ice during the Sochi Olympics.

Benn has a gold medal to show for his efforts and now looks to get the Stars into the playoffs, a push that begins on Thursday night versus the Carolina Hurricanes.

The captain of the Stars is second on the club with 22 goals, 29 assists and 51 points, behind only Tyler Seguin (24 goals, 32 assists) in all three categories. Benn also got to show his stuff for Team Canada and scored a pair of game-winning goals in the tournament, including the lone tally against the U.S. in a 1-0 win during the semifinals.

Benn should have plenty of mojo as the Stars open up their post-Olympic schedule one point behind Vancouver for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

"I came back (from the Olympics) with confidence. I want to definitely keep it rolling the last 24 games here with the Stars and be the leader here. I want to be the go-to guy and hopefully lead our team into the playoffs," noted Benn.

Dallas is certainly trending in the right direction, having gone 3-0-1 in its last four games before the break and 6-1-2 in its past nine overall.

The Stars will play three straight and six of their next seven at home and are likely to give the start tonight in net to Kari Lehtonen, who won a bronze medal with Team Finland in Sochi. Lehtonen is 6-11-1 with a 3.39 goals against average in his career versus Carolina.

The Hurricanes will play their second game following the Olympic hiatus as they visited the Buffalo Sabres in the lone game on the schedule Tuesday. The two clubs returned to action early to make up a postponed game from Jan. 7.

Carolina got goals from Eric Staal and Alexander Semin, but Buffalo's Christian Ehrhoff scored with 43.4 seconds left in regulation to hand the Hurricanes a 3-2 loss.

Cam Ward gave up all three goals on 18 shots in his first NHL action since Dec. 31 as Carolina opened a five-game road trip with its fourth loss in six games.

"This is a tough pill to swallow right now, for everybody," said Staal. "We definitely had the better chances throughout the game, but they capitalized on their chances."

Ward was returning to action from a lower-body injury and it is unknown if he will start again tonight or if the streaking Anton Khudobin will get the call. Khudobin went 10-4-0 with a 2.19 GAA in 14 games in January and has logged a 2.01 GAA in three games this month.

Khudobin has never faced the Stars, while Ward is 2-3-1 with a 3.48 GAA against them.

The Hurricanes, who are five points back of third place in the Metropolitan Division, are playing the Stars for the first time since a 5-2 home loss on Nov. 6, 2011.

Dallas has won three straight and eight of the last 10 meetings overall, going 9-0-0 with a tie in the past 10 encounters at home.

The Stars have not lost as the hosting club in this series since a setback to the Hartford Whalers on Feb. 11, 1996.

02/27 10:45:42 ET

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