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Stars-Blue Jackets Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- The Dallas Stars haven't been able to close out their last two opponents, but having Jamie Benn back could help if they're in that position again Monday night at Columbus.
So could first-liners Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy.
Benn could make his season debut and Jagr and Roy might return from one-game injury absences as the Stars face a Blue Jackets team that's winless since opening night.
A first-time All-Star last season with career highs of 26 goals and 63 points, Benn signed a five-year. $26.25 million contract with the Stars (2-2-1) earlier this week. The fourth-year center was playing in Germany during the NHL lockout, so it's still uncertain if he'll have his work visa in time.
Benn led the Stars with three goals and was tied for the team lead with five points as Dallas won three of four versus Columbus last season, including both at Nationwide Arena.
Jagr (strained back/hip) and Roy (groin) could also be available as the Stars look to rebound from Thursday's 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago and Saturday's 4-3 defeat to St. Louis. Dallas led by two in the second period against the Blackhawks and was up 2-1 after 20 minutes on Saturday behind goals from Tomas Vincour and Michael Ryder.
"We're hoping to get big No. 14 (Been) back," coach Glen Gulutzan told the Stars' official website. "It's a tough road trip (at Columbus and at Detroit on Tuesday). Hopefully we can build off a little juice of getting 14 back in the lineup, getting (Jagr) and (Roy) back in there and get clicking again."
The Blue Jackets are hoping to get back on track after dropping four straight since their first season-opening victory in three years, 3-2 in a shootout at Nashville on Jan. 19.
Columbus (1-3-1) is also trying to get past the disappointment of a Derick Brassard goal being waved off in the second period of Saturday's 3-2 loss to Chicago after officials ruled that newcomer Nick Foligno interfered with goaltender Corey Crawford.
"There's no time to dwell on things," said coach Todd Richards, whose team was outscored 9-1 in its previous two games – both on the road. "…. Every game is huge (in the shortened season), so you better be able to put the failures behind you, but you've also got to put your successes behind you too."
Richards was pleased with Steve Mason's performance (21 saves) on Saturday and that might be enough to earn the former Calder Trophy winner his first set of back-to-back starts.
Mason went 1-2-0 with a 2.69 goals-against average against the Stars in 2011-12.
Blue Jackets No. 1 goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has a 1.44 GAA while winning both of his career starts versus Dallas. Those came while he was with Philadelphia.
Kari Lehtonen, who has a 1.67 GAA while winning his last three starts at Columbus, should be starting for Dallas after replacing backup Cristopher Nilstorp (groin) with 7:41 left on Saturday. Lehtonen didn't start because of a "tweak" during the morning skate, but the injury doesn't appear to be serious.
"We made sure he (Lehtonen) was ready," Gulutzan said.
Dallas has killed 14 of 17 penalties over the last four games.
Columbus has not converted any of its 14 power-play chances in its last three.
Updated January 27, 2013