With three losses in their last four games, the Boston Bruins find themselves in a battle for the Atlantic Division lead as they head out for a two-game Western Conference road trip.
The first stop of that trip is in Dallas on Thursday night, where a Stars team with some familiar faces awaits them.
The usually stingy Bruins (29-15-2) haven't been very sharp defensively lately, allowing 4.3 goals per game in their last three losses. That's a decided increase from the 2.1 they surrendered during the first 42 games.
Tuukka Rask still ranks among the league leaders with a 2.11 goals-against average despite posting an .867 save percentage in his past four starts. He stopped 22 of 26 shots in Tuesday's 4-3 loss to visiting Toronto, failing to notch his career-best 23rd win.
Boston, which hast lost five of seven on the road, is tied with Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic.
"(We're going to see) teams not in the playoff picture looking to get in, teams who are there just trying to stay in and stay in the top spots," winger Reilly Smith told the team's official website. "So you know, we need to pick up our game just as other teams are, because it's gut-check time right now, and the points are huge."
This will be Smith's first game back in Dallas, where he spent his first two seasons. He was traded to Boston in July along with Loui Eriksson in the deal that sent Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to the Stars.
The deal has worked out well for both sides so far, as Smith leads the Bruins with 15 goals and ranks second with 33 points. Seguin, meanwhile, leads Dallas with 21 goals and 42 points.
Seguin and Peverley were both held without a point but each scored in the shootout to help the Stars to a 3-2 victory at Boston on Nov. 5.
"I don't know what it's going to be like. They're a good team and I am going to be ready for that," Seguin said of facing his former teammates. "They're one of the best teams in the league. Anytime you go up against those teams they are tough nights, but every night you try to go in the same way."
The Stars (21-18-7) should be feeling better about themselves after ending a season-high six-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over Edmonton on Tuesday. Ryan Garbutt had a goal and two assists and Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 shots as Dallas posted its first win of 2014.
"We're pretty happy with that one," Garbutt said. "We got some tough breaks in the little slide here, and I think tonight we got some breaks and bounces."
Jamie Benn scored a rare power-play goal for the Stars, who entered with a 12.4 percent success rate (20 for 161). They are a dismal 7 for 81 (8.8 percent) with the man advantage at home.
"Hopefully, that leads to better times ahead for the power play," coach Lindy Ruff said.
Seguin assisted on Benn's goal for his first point in six games. The Stars are 6-12-5 when he fails to record a point compared to 14-6-1 when he does.
Dallas has won the last two meetings after a three-game skid in the series. Boston is just 3-6-1 in road games against the Stars since the organization moved to Dallas from Minnesota prior to the 1993-94 season.