Vancouver Canucks (43-21-09, 95 pts) @ Dallas Stars (40-28-5, 85 pts)
7:30 PM CT, March 22, 2012
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
Spirits are high in Stars camp. Dallas is coming off a critical 4-3 overtime over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday. The win kept the Stars atop the division and third place in the Western Conference and allowed them to regain some momentum after two bad losses. Things just continue to get more difficult as the Northwest leading Vancouver Canucks come into town tonight. Dropping even one game can prove fatal as the difference between ninth and third place for Dallas is only one point.
The Stars have been able to beat Vancouver this season by being the more physical team. Battle along the boards and forechecking is critical in this game as they have to keep the Canucks offense stymied. They've outhit Vancouver 61-40 in the season series.
There's some good news and bad news for the Stars coming into this game. Jamie Benn looks to be okay after taking devastating blow after devastating blow in the game against the Coyotes. He could have easily suffered a concussion three times over but he seems okay.
Dallas will be without Mark Fistric though as he deals with an upper body injury. He suffered the injury during the Stars game against the Coyotes, possibly during the scrum that occurred after Shane Doan hit Benn. He'll miss at least a week with the injury and that'll thrust Adam Pardy back into the spotlight. I hope Jordie Benn can get some time though.
Kari Lehtonen and his wonder glove will be starting again tonight. He started the first of the two matchups between the two teams this season and stopped 24 of 26 shots in an overtime win.
Notes and thoughts:
- It's the Ribs, Ryder and Eriksson show for the Stars against the Canucks. Ribeiro has three goals and two assists, Ryder one goal and two assists and Eriksson has a pair of each. They'll need to be on their game again tonight.
- Dallas is 21-13-3 at home.
- Dallas needs to stay off the penalty kill today now that Fistric is hurt. He was a huge part of the PK and I don't think Adam Pardy, Jordie Benn or whoever the replacement on the PK unit is can do as good a job. Against a power play unit that can be explosive, Dallas needs to avoid penalties.
more after the jump
Vancouver is in the middle of a rough patch right now in their season. After a fine February, the Canucks have dropped seven of ten games in March, culminating in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last night. The loss was made even worse as Daniel Sedin took an elbow to the head (his face really) from Duncan Keith. Sedin is going to miss tonight's game and could be out for an extended period.
The Stars certainly won't be complaining though. That's just one less star to cover on this team. Now Dallas can focus their attention on Henrik Sedin, who they have done well against in the previous two games this season. Henrik is pointless in the season series with only three shots on goal and a -2 rating. Mike Ribeiro and his line has done great work defensively against the Swedish twins and it will have to continue tonight (although it's just one Sedin tonight). Henrik might be more of a shooter tonight so Dallas has to close down quickly on him.
The one guy that has been beating the Stars this season has been Chris Higgins. He has one goal and three assists in the season series so a little extra attention on him wouldn't hurt. The Canucks offense has struggled in the past week and a half and the Stars have to give no reason for them to get back on track. In both games this season, Roberto Luongo was the starter and he struggled mightily. He's given up seven goals on 56 shots.
Besides Sedin twin number two, the Canucks will also be without centers Andrew Ebbett (collarbone) and Aaron Volpatti (shoulder) as well as defenseman Keith Ballard (concussion).
As tonight is the second of a back-to-back for the Canucks, I would expect Cory Schneider to start as Luongo started yesterday. Schenider is the better goalie of the two this season. He faced the Stars twice last season and won both games, allowing only two goals on 71 shots.
Notes and thoughts:
- The Canucks can clinch their division with a win tonight.
- Vancouver is 22-11-5 on the road this season. They've lost their last four games on the road though (three in a shootout/overtime).
- Daniel Sedin is the leading goal scorer on the team so Henrik lost his main target. Extra attention should be put on Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins.
- Vancouver is 5-4-0 on the second night of back-to-backs. They've won five in a row though.