The Dallas Stars’ free fall from Pacific Division leaders to fighting for a Western Conference playoff spot in recent weeks has been magnified by the loss of their leading scorer to injury.

A victory against the Central Division-leading Detroit Red Wings may provide a boost to the Stars’ confidence.

Brad Richards is expected to miss his fifth straight game with a concussion as Dallas looks to end a five-game losing streak Thursday night in Detroit.

The Stars (31-23-6) have slipped into a logjam with much of the conference for playoff position after having lost 11 of 13 while being outscored 50-24 and going 4 for 41 on the power play during that stretch.

They were held to fewer than three goals for the seventh time in eight games Tuesday, falling 1-0 to streaking New Jersey.

Dallas has five goals in the four games Richards has missed after he scored in three straight games prior to his injury. Richards, who has 24 goals and 39 assists, has scored in four straight meetings against Detroit.

Captain Brenden Morrow has only one goal in his last five games, but he’s scored three against Detroit this season.

Recently acquired defenseman Alex Goligoski took a crucial high-sticking penalty in the third period which led to the Devils’ goal. Though the Stars have had a rough few weeks, Goligoski said beating Detroit may give the team a lift.

“I think going into Detroit is as good an opportunity as ever to get a good win against a good team in their building, in a tough atmosphere,” Goligoski told the team’s official website. “Those are the kind of things that gets teams going, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to go in there and win.”

It may be as good a time as any for Dallas to accomplish the feat.

The Red Wings (37-17-6) had a season-high five-game winning streak snapped Tuesday with a 4-3 loss to San Jose, falling to 6-6-2 at home since Dec. 13.

Dallas won the only other matchup in Detroit this season – 4-3 on Dec. 19 on Loui Eriksson’s overtime goal – and have taken three of the last four meetings at Joe Louis Arena.

Jimmy Howard made 39 saves against San Jose, but lost for the first time in four starts. He’s 2-3-1 with a 2.32 goals-against average against the Stars in his career.

“We’re not going to win every one, so this is nothing to get down about,” Howard said.

Patrick Eaves, who recorded a hat trick in a 7-3 win Dec. 29 against Dallas, is expected to miss at least a week with a leg injury suffered against the Sharks.

Danny Cleary scored twice and has four goals and two assists in his last four. Henrik Zetterberg added a power play goal, but he hasn’t scored in his last five meetings against the Stars.

Dallas, which beat Detroit 4-1 on Oct. 14, has won seven of the last nine meetings overall.

The Stars on Wednesday activated forwards Krys Barch and Adam Burish after each missed eight games because of facial injuries sustained in separate fights Feb. 3 against Boston.

Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.


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