The Canucks begin a short two games in two nights road trip in the Lone Star State tonight when they take battle the Dallas Stars.
Heading into their game with the Habs two nights ago, the Canucks needed a morale boost in the worst way and they certainly got it with a 5-1 shellacking of previously undefeated Canadiens. The timing couldn't have been better as they head back out onto the road now where they have yet to lose a game this season to face a Stars team whose red hot start to the season almost rivals that of Montreal's. Dallas has not been a kind destination in recent years as the Canucks have dropped their last four games at the American Airlines Center.
The news was not all good for the Canucks despite Tuesday's victory, however, as Vancouver lost Brandon Prust with an ankle injury in-game while Dan Hamhuis was a late scratch due to a lower-body injury. Neither Prust nor Hamhuis are with the team on this two-game road trip. Alex Biega and Brendan Gaunce were re-called yesterday from Utica (AHL) and could draw in tonight. In Gaunce's case, should he dress, it would mark his NHL debut. There is a possibility that Richard Bachman, who began his NHL career in Dallas, could make his Canucks debut between the pipes tonight. The Stars, fresh off a 4-3 win over the Ducks on Tuesday, might be tempted to turn back to Antti Niemi in net as he has won his last three straight games. It's worth noting, though, that in Dallas' active seven-game win streak over Vancouver, Kari Lehtonen has recorded the win in each and every one of those contests.(Stars update: Niemi is expected to start tonight).
Puck drop at 5:30 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Vancouver Hockey, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
When the Stars examined the reason for their downfall last season, it was very apparent that offence was not to blame. After all, their 257 goals for trailed only that of Tampa Bay's 259 while their captain Jamie Benn also became the first player in franchise history to win the Art Ross as the league's leading point scorer. Their biggest problem was keeping the puck out of their own net as they surrendered 257 goals against – the fourth most in the league. Their off-season moves were aimed directly at cutting that latter number down. They brought in veteran defenceman Johnny Oduya from Chicago to anchor what is still a fairly young blue-line with four of the eight defencemen on their active roster (Jokipakka, Klinberg, Nemeth, Oleksiak) under the age of 25. The most noteworthy move was bringing in former Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi to form a tandem with incumbent starter Kari Lehtonen. Niemi was coming off a rather unimpressive final season in San Jose but has been in the zone so far winning four of his first five starts.
Even though they were happy with what their offence brought them last season, the Stars also made moves to upgrade that part of their game bringing in another former Cup champ from Chicago in Patrick Sharp. Sharp, who went through some lengthy dry spells last season with the Blackhawks, began the season going point-less in four games but has four points in his last five outings and scored his first goal of the year in Dallas' last game to spark their come-from-behind win over Anaheim. Another player they have high expectations for is 22-year-old rookie Mattias Janmark, a former Red Wings draft pick who has played his entire career in Sweden prior to this season. Janmark had recently been skating on a line with Jason Spezza and Valeri Nichushkin although it appears he's lost his top-six spot temporarily to Sharp and will begin tonight's game on a fourth line with Ales Hemsky and fellow rookie, Radek Faska.
Keys to the Game
Keep rolling. In Tuesday's win, only one Canuck forward had more than 17 minutes of ice-time (Sutter) and only one had fewer than 12 minutes (Prust due to injury). The early lead no doubt gave the Canucks a little more flexibility but, even then, this team seems to be better when the bench isn't shortened especially when protecting a lead.
Play to the final whistle. The Canucks learned two nights ago the best way to close out a game is to not let up. If they watch footage of the Stars battling back from a three-goal deficit to beat the Ducks that same night, they'll know exactly why nothing less than a 60-minute effort is acceptable tonight.
Draw calls, make them pay. The Stars are dangerous enough at even-strength but give them a man-advantage and they're deadly. The PP has struck in seven of nine games (9-for-30 overall) and is on a three-game scoring streak. Ironically, the PP was one of the few areas Dallas did not excel in last season versus Vancouver going 1-for-9.
By the Numbers
Wins (and no losses) for the Stars this season when giving up the first goal.
Straight games with a point for Stars D John Klingberg (2-4-6).
Straight games without a win for the Canucks in head-to-head meetings versus the Stars (0-6-1).
Games played by Canucks G Richard Bachman with the Dallas Stars from 2010.11 to 2012.13.
Faceoff win percentage for Henrik Sedin this season, best in the league (minimum 100 draws taken).
Points for Stars' Jamie Benn last season, tops in the league.