Dallas Stars (35-26-5, 75 pts) @ Vancouver Canucks (41-17-8, 90 pts)
9:00 PM CT, March 6, 2012
Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
The Stars woke up to a little gift today as they suddenly find themselves sitting in the third seed in the Western Conference. A Pittsburgh Penguins win over the Phoenix Coyotes yesterday put a tiebreaker into effect between the Stars and Yotes; a tiebreaker that the Stars win. The vault into third place suddenly makes this game a battle between division leaders and a chance for the Stars to put a little separation between themselves and the rest of the pack.
The Stars are arguably the hottest team in the NHL right now. Dallas is 7-1-2 in the last 10 games and has won six of its last seven games (one of those was a 3-2 OT victory over these Canucks). The only loss in that time span was a shootout loss to the Penguins so Dallas is on a seven game point streak. Another tough test shows up tonight as the Stars take on the conference leading Vancouver Canucks.
This is going to be obvious, but the Stars need to do exactly what they did in the last game if they want to win this one. In that previous game, the Stars fought hard for every puck and won battles along the boards. They forced the Sedin twins to give up the puck in areas that they wanted and rendered them ineffective. The Swedish pair combined for only one shot on goal and neither twin registered a point.
The only reason that game went into overtime was because Kari Lehtonen had a bad game. Both of the goals that he let in were very soft goals (one dribbler off the glove and one that went through his armpit) and Tom Wandell missed a point blank open net shot in the first period. If Dallas can come out motivated and strong tonight, there's a great chance to extend this point streak to eight games. Dallas also did not have Jamie Benn in that game so he'll be a very welcome addition tonight.
Glen Gulutzan switched things up today as he decided that backup goalie Richard Bachman would be getting the start tonight instead of Kari Lehtonen. Bachman has started two games since Feb. 1, a 5-2 loss to San Jose Sharks and a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Bachman is 4-2-0 on the road this season.
Dallas will be without Brenden Morrow (back/neck/shoulder), Jake Dowell (broken finger) while Toby Peterson is still not with the team as his wife just gave birth. He should be with the team when the Stars return home to play the San Jose Sharks.
Notes and thoughts:
- Dallas is 17-14-2 on the road this season. Dallas has won its last four road games. The Stars have scored three goals in each of those games and outscored the opponent 12-4.
- Dallas is 8-0-1 against Canadian teams this season.
- Mike Ribeiro and Loui Eriksson each had a goal and an assist in the previous matchup.
- Loui Eriksson has mulitple points in four of his last six games while Ribs has at least a point in nine of his last ten games.
- Michael Ryder has a goal in four straight games and at least a point in six straight (and 12 of his last 13).
more after the jump
The West leading Canucks find themselves in a bit of a rut. Vancouver has lost three of its last four games (though the Canucks still managed to get points in two of those losses), which is basically its worst stretch of games since the very first month of the season. The latest game for Vancouver was a 5-3 home loss to the low-scoring Buffalo Sabres.
The big problem with the Canucks lately has been their offense. Vancouver has scored two or fewer goals in five of the last seven games. Even when the goaltending finally is good, the offense just can't help out the team. Recent trade chip Zack Kassian was inserted into the second line agaist the Sabres and produced a goal and an assist as a result. He might be interesting to watch for tonight.
I'm guessing that Roberto Luongo will be the starter tonight but he struggled mightily in his last game. He allowed three goals to the Sabres in the first six minutes and was subsequently pulled from the game in favor of Cory Schneider. It continues his up and down play as he had a 2-0 shutout in his game before against the St. Louis Blues. He was the starter (and loser) in the last matchup between Dallas and Vancouver.
He has been great against Dallas on home ice though. He's 8-0-0 in his home career against the Stars with a 1.84 GAA.
Vancouver is without the services of defenseman Keith Ballard (concussion) and wingers Andrew Ebbett (shoulder/collarbone) and Aaron Volpatti (shoulder).
Notes and thoughts:
- Vancouver is 19-7-4 at home this season.
- NHL ranks for Vancouver: 4th in goals per game, 6th in goals against, 3rd in PP percentage and 5th in PK percentage.
- Henrik Sedin has been held pointless in his last five games, the longest pointless streak he's had this season and worst he's had since 2003. Daniel Sedin only has one assist in that five game stretch.
- The PP for the Canucks has gone 1 of 18 in the last seven games. The PK in that stretch has gone 18 of 20.
- Don't expect very many (if any) PP opportunites for the Stars tonight. Vancouver is the second least penalized team on home ice in the NHL, which is bizarre considering that the most penalized road team in the league is these Canucks.