Defensive Struggles

Dallas,Tx - Olli Jokinen's return can only help the Phoenix Coyotes on offense, but it might not be enough if their defensive problems on the road continue.

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Coming off their worst game on defense this season, the Coyotes expect to have Jokinen back in the lineup when they visit the Dallas Stars in a Pacific Division matchup Wednesday night.

Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sports Interaction have made the Stars –150 money line favorites for Tuesday’s game against the Kings. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 67% of more than 95 bets for this game have been placed on the Stars -150.

Jokinen has missed six straight games with a shoulder injury, but Phoenix (12-13-2) has been happy with his progress and is set to welcome back one of its top scorers.

"Olli is doing probably a little better than we anticipated or expected," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "He's a little ahead of where we thought he might be at this time."

Jokinen, who turned 30 on Friday, ranks second on Phoenix with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) despite missing time. The veteran center, acquired in a trade with Florida in June, has a goal and four assists in his last four games at Dallas.

The Coyotes could certainly use a boost on offense on the road, where they are averaging 2.21 goals per game. But they've been just as bad on defense away from Phoenix, allowing 3.64 goals a contest.

The past seven road games have been particularly tough for the Coyotes, who have allowed 30 goals en route to going 1-5-1.

Ilya Bryzgalov was terrible in net as Phoenix lost 7-1 at Chicago on Sunday night. Bryzgalov has allowed 11 goals in his last two games, with the Coyotes losing both.

After Sunday's contest, Phoenix announced that backup goalie Mikael Tellqvist had a lower body injury. His status for Wednesday's game is uncertain.

"He had a minor injury and it was one of those things where we really couldn't take a chance of him getting hurt more," Gretzky said.

Dallas (10-12-4), meanwhile, got an excellent effort in net from Marty Turco in a 2-1 shootout victory over Colorado on Friday night.

Colorado's Wojtek Wolski converted in the first round, but Turco was perfect the next three rounds to end the Avalanche's unbeaten streak in shootouts at eight. Turco has a 3.38 goals-against average, 1.16 higher than his career average, and the Stars need him to revert to his usual form to make a run in the Western Conference.

Dallas has won four of six, its best stretch of what has been a disappointing start for a team that came within two wins of reaching the Stanley Cup finals last season.

"They're all not going to be masterpieces right now," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "It's all about getting points."

Dallas will be without winger Sean Avery for the fourth straight contest. Avery drew a six-game suspension Friday for a crude comment regarding his ex-girlfriends dating other hockey players. Avery will eligible to return Dec. 16 against Phoenix, but the organization may not want him back.

To help make up for Avery's absence, Dallas has added center Tom Wandell. The Stars' fifth-round draft pick in 2005, Wandell had been playing for Timra in the Swedish Elite League.

Loui Eriksson, another young Stars forward, had two goals in a 3-2 win at Phoenix on Nov. 15 in the only meeting between the teams this season. Dallas lost three of four home games against the Coyotes last season.

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Posted: 12/10/08 12:20 AM ET

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