The Canucks look for a second straight victory to start their four-game road trip tonight when they take on the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars.
The Canucks had an opportunity to celebrate American Thanksgiving as a group yesterday and if you asked them collectively what they're most thankful for lately, the immediate answer would be the performance of teammates Radim Vrbata and Ryan Miller on Wednesday in the trip-opener in Minnesota. The former tallied the first two goals of the game for the Canucks, while the latter turned in one of his finer performances of the season stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 win over the Wild. The win, just Vancouver's third in their last 11 outings, was a much-needed one for a Canucks' team that was desperate for a good start to this trip especially in light of how their seven-game road trip earlier this month fared.
The trip certainly doesn't get any easier tonight when the Canucks face a Stars team that, through the first quarter of the season, certainly looks like a Cup contender. Although Coach Desjardins did not confirm any line-up changes yesterday, it appears as though Sven Baertschi may slot back in with Jake Virtanen coming out. This is the second of three meetings between the Canucks and Stars this season, and the final visit for the Canucks to the Lone Star State. The Stars knocked off the Canucks 4-3 in overtime in their most recent clash back on October 29.
Puck drop at 5:30 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
If you're a fan of up-tempo hockey and lots of goals, you have to be a fan of the Stars. The Stars sit second in the league in goals for averaging 3.54 per game. It's easy to play that style of game when you've got two of the most dynamic players in the league and certainly one of the best duos in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who have already combined for 28 goals and 63 points. Benn and Seguin might receive top billing on most nights, but the Stars have a pretty decent supporting cast as well. John Klingberg and Jason Demers (currently day-to-day) are piling up the points from the back end, while veterans such as Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, and newcomer Patrick Sharp have made consistent offensive contributions as well mostly on the power play where the Stars also rank second in the league clicking at an impressive 26.9 percent on the season.
The Stars were one of the top scoring teams last year as well finishing second overall in the league but the biggest reason why they've been able to pick up victories this year is because of much-improved play in their own zone thanks in large part to their No. 1 and No. 1A netminders, Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen, in particular, seems to be sparked by the arrival of his fellow countryman winning nine of 10 starts this season while posting a 2.41 GAA and .921 save percentage. The Stars, however, will be handing the starter's gig to Niemi for the time being not so by design but rather by circumstance. Lehtonen suffered an upper-body injury in the Stars' last outing ironically after coming into the game in relief of Niemi. Niemi's numbers (8-4-0; 2.64 GAA; .907 save percentage) aren't quite as sparkling as Lehtonen's but he's still getting the bottom line job done for the most part which is pick up wins. With regards to goals-against-average and save percentage, both Stars netminders are posting better numbers right now compared to any goaltender the Stars employed a season ago.
Keys to the Game
Don't be afraid to play their game. Trading chances with a team like the Stars might not seem like the best idea but, as much as the Stars know how to score, they can also give up goals in bunches. Just ask the Senators who successfully converted a touchdown against Dallas on Tuesday. The Canucks will want to take a page from Ottawa's book.
Miller shines. Ryan Miller was in early-season form on Wednesday and, in his case, that's a good thing. He kept his team in it early with a few big saves, and preserved the lead late with a few miraculous stops. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come and that he's ready to put his recent funk behind him.
Better to score early than late. The Stars are pretty good at mounting comeback victories and the Canucks know this well after watching Dallas overcome a third period deficit against them on October 29. But they are 12-2 when scoring first, 10-1 when leading after one period, and 9-0 when leading after two periods, so why tempt fate?
Canucks Gameday Road Report, Presented by Toyota
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Stars this season when they allow three-or-fewer goals (17-1-0).
Combined goals for Radim Vrbata in his last two games. He had three goals in his first 19 games played this season.
Straight losses for the Canucks the American Airlines Center (0-4-1).
Game active point streaks for Daniel Sedin (5-5-10), and Dallas' Jamie Benn (6-5-11) and Tyler Seguin (3-5-8) entering play tonight.
Straight losses for the Canucks to the Stars in head-to-head meetings (0-6-2).
Average shots on goal per game for the Stars, second most in the league (LAK – 32.0).