CANUCKS (24-16-1) at STARS (18-11-11)
Last 10 --
Vancouver 7-2-1; Dallas 5-3-2
Season series --
They've met twice so far, the home team winning each time. On Oct. 11 at GM Place, the Stars' Jamie Benn
forced overtime by scoring with 1:33 left only to have the Canucks prevail 4-3 in a shootout. Weeks later on Nov. 6, it was the Stars holding off a late push by the Canucks and preserving a 2-1 win at the American Airlines Center.
Big story --
Both teams ring in the new year poised to make a run in the second half. The Canucks are riding high after they erased a 3-0 deficit to beat the Blues in St. Louis 4-3 in overtime and are 2-0-1 on their road trip that concludes in Dallas. The Stars, meanwhile, are seeing signs that their young team is starting to click, using a Loui Eriksson
hat trick to power past the Ducks, 5-3.
One reason this team is fired up lately is the way they've been picking up points on the road, not a Canuck strength this year, as they have the third-fewest road points in the NHL. A big win in Calgary got the trip going on the right foot, then a point stolen from the Coyotes in Phoenix and the comeback in St. Louis really built the team's confidence, punctuated by Christian Ehrhoff's overtime game-winner.
"We know we can do it now," Ryan Kesler
told the Vancouver Sun. "We knew they've lost some games in the third period at home. That gave us come confidence. And to actually do it, come back from three goals down to win it in overtime, that builds confidence in the room.
"We're going to try to forget we were terrible on the road at the start of the season. We need to get better on the road to keep climbing the standings. We all know what's coming up in February. We need to be good now to be good then."
When you have as many young players in key roles as the Stars have, you're aware of how much patience it takes to see all that raw talent come together. And then sometimes you make a move and it works out brilliantly.
Coach Marc Crawford juggled his lines this week, moving James Neal off the top line and combining Eriksson, Brad Richards and Jere Lehtinen, a grouping that produced huge results against the Ducks, namely Eriksson's three tallies.
"I had a lot more chances out there," Eriksson said. "But it’s always fun to score a hat trick, especially when you win."
Pairing Neal off with Mike Ribeiro
didn't hurt either, as their line has been pretty productive, too, particularly in a high-powered 5-4 win over the Blackhawks on Tuesday.
Who's hot --
Eriksson's hat trick makes it four goals in his last two games and 18 points in the month of December (13 games). Henrik Sedin
's game-tying goal against St. Louis with less than two minutes left in regulation extended his points streak to five games and gave him 53 on the season, two short of Joe Thornton's League-leading 55.
Injury report --
Things looked perilous for the Canucks in Glendale when defenseman Kevin Bieksa
went down, getting cut just above the ankle by Petr Prucha's skate as the Phoenix forward was finishing a check. He could miss at least two months. It's the second time such a thing has happened to Bieksa, who missed 47 games two seasons ago after his calf was sliced by then-Nashville Predator Vern Fiddler's skate.
Dallas is at full strength.
Stat pack --
Ehrhoff's plus-21 ties him with New Jersey's Zach Parise for the League lead. Brad Richards' 36 assists for the Stars also put him in good company -- tied for second in the NHL with Tomas Plekanec and Martin St. Louis behind Joe Thornton's 44.
Puck drop --
While this successful trip away from home is definitely a good sign for the Canucks, they still have a lot to prove before anyone considers them road warriors.