Date: October 21, 2011 10:00 PM EDT
The Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars have thrived out of the gate behind Kari Lehtonen's tremendous play.
With Jonas Hiller back in All-Star form, the Anaheim Ducks are off to their best start since their Stanley Cup winning-campaign five seasons ago.
Lehtonen and Hiller could be in goal as the division rivals - both riding four-game winning streaks - square off at the Honda Center on Friday night.
Dallas (5-1-0), which missed out on the playoffs for a franchise worst-tying third consecutive season in 2010-11, has in contrast looked every bit like a contender early - with Lehtonen receiving much of the credit.
The Finland native improved to 5-0-0 after making 38 saves as the Stars kicked off a four-game road swing with a home-and-home sweep of Columbus, winning 3-2 on Tuesday. Lehtonen, who owns a 1.58 goals-against average, has faced at least 38 shots in four of his five wins.
"I'm just trying to be patient," he told the Stars' official website. "I think that's the biggest thing. It went good, and you have to be happy about it.
"When things are going well, of course it feels fun, and it's nice to play. You don't want to say that it gets easier, but you get lucky sometimes when things are going well. You have to keep working and hoping that it stays the same way."
After missing nearly all of the second half of last season due to vertigo, Hiller also has impressed. He's gone 3-0-0 with a 0.97 GAA over his last three games - including a 31-save shutout in a 1-0 win over San Jose last Friday.
Anaheim (4-1-0) is off to its best start since opening 12-0-4 in 2006-07.
Dan Ellis, making his season debut, spelled Hiller for Monday's 3-2 road win over the Sharks. Ellis stopped 41 shots while Teemu Selanne, who had been limited to one assist during the first four games, scored twice.
"The first goal is always the most important one," said Selanne, who's tallied nine goals and 15 assists over his last 24 meetings with Dallas. "You want to try to get the goals coming."
Reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry also came up big, scoring for the second time in as many games. He's notched five goals and six assists during his last eight matchups in this series.
Selanne and Perry could be in line for plenty of scoring chances versus the Stars, who are allowing 33.8 shots per game - among the most in the league.
While thats surely an area that needs to be addressed, defenseman Sheldon Souray doesn't seem too concerned given Lehtonen's recent efforts.
"We've done some good things and we've put some periods together, some stretches together," Souray said. "But we've had some where we've sat back and let (Lehtonen) take a lot of shots. When we have, he's made the saves."
Lehtonen is 2-3-2 with a 3.26 GAA lifetime in this series. Hiller is 2-1-1 with a 1.97 GAA in his last four games against the Stars.
Dallas, which had gone 0-2-2 at Anaheim before taking the most recent meeting 4-3 on April 3, visits Los Angeles on Saturday before concluding its trek against Phoenix next week.
"These are big division games and teams we're going to see a lot. It's good we got off to a good start," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "These road trips are where you see what your team is made of. It'll be a good test for us."
The Stars are on the verge of their best start since 2006-07, when they opened 8-1-0.