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Published: 1/3/2008

Best in the West: Red Wings

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT - In a battle of the best of the west, the Red Wings made beating the Stars look easy.

Dan Cleary had a goal and an assist to lift Detroit to a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars last night in a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference.

Johan Franzen, Dallas Drake and Pavel Datsyuk also scored for the NHL-leading Red Wings, who got their 30th win as the season reached its halfway point.

"The guys have been real professional the first half," said Mike Babcock, who will coach the Western Conference in the All-Star Game in Atlanta on Jan. 27, by virtue of his team having the conference's best record. "You win 30 in 41 games, you've got to be doing something right."

Drake's goal was his first of the season, Henrik Zetterberg had two assists in his first game back after missing five games with a sore back and Nicklas Lidstrom also assisted on two goals to give him 700 for his career.

"We've been playing real good as a team, even though we've had some injuries to our top guys," Lidstrom said.

Chris Osgood made 23 saves.

Aaron Downey also got his first point of the season as he set up Franzen's goal.

Loui Eriksson got Dallas' goal.

"I think we had some real good chances," said Stars coach Dave Tippett. "They had some too. Theirs went in, ours didn't."

And while Detroit's numbers were positive, Dallas goalie Marty Turco's stats against the Red Wings aren't. Turco, who made 22 saves, is 1-9-5 against them.

"You don't have to remind me," said Turco when asked about it.

Cleary opened the scoring with 7:59 left in the first period. After his original shot had been blocked before it got to the net, Cleary picked up the loose puck and beat Turco from the left circle with a wrist shot for his 13th goal.

Franzen scored on a breakaway 7:28 into the second period. After taking a pass from Downey, he put a move on Turco and put in a backhand shot. It was Franzen's seventh goal.

Drake scored 4:32 into the third period, when he beat Turco on a one-timer from the bottom edge of the right circle. His last goal had been Feb. 14.

"It's been a long time coming. I just told the guys, the last time I scored, I think it was an eclipse," he said. "It feels great."

Datsyuk added his 16th goal with 6:47 remaining.

Eriksson spoiled Osgood's shutout bid with 6:11 left with his third goal.

NOTES: Dallas center Mike Modano, a native of the Detroit suburb of Livonia, was honored before the game for becoming the highest-scoring American-born player in NHL history earlier this season. He played for the Little Caesars youth hockey organization as a youngster. Red Wings' owner Mike Ilitch owns the Little Caesars pizza chain. Modano was presented with a framed Little Caesars jersey with his name and number.



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