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BELFOUR GETS EASY SHUTOUT AS STARS' DEFENSE LETS HIM REST

The Dallas Stars are making their mark as one of the NHL's top defensive teams.

Thursday night, they even showed defensive-minded Florida how to do it, holding the Panthers to a franchise record-low 12 shots en route to a 4-0 victory.

Ed Belfour had a relatively easy time while gaining his second shutout in five starts. The Stars, who have given up just 13 goals in seven games, are allowing 19.8 shots per contest.

"We're staying with the plan and it seems to work," Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov said.

Belfour posted his 33rd career shutout as Dallas' defense limited Florida to a handful of legitimate scoring chances. The previous record for fewest shots allowed by the Minnesota-Dallas franchise was 13 by the Colorado Rockies in 1980.

Around the rinks

Zigmund Palffy, a 48-goal scorer last year who had struggled this season, broke through for three goals to lead the Islanders past the Sharks, 5-2. Robert Reichel added a goal and assisted on two of Palffy's scores, and Bryan Smolinski had his first goal of the season, helping the Islanders win for just the second time in six games this season. In seven games this season, San Jose is only 2 for 47 on the power play. . . . Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bob Probert will miss at least one month after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee today. The Blackhawks play host to the Sabres on Sunday. . . . Ottawa center Alexandre Daigle is expected to return for tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils after missing three games with an infected right elbow. To create a roster spot for Daigle, the Senators assigned right wing Marian Hossa, the team's 1997 first-round draft pick, to his former Canadian junior league team, the Portland Winter Hawks. Hossa, 18, had one assist in seven games with Ottawa.

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