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Canucks hope to snap skid against Stars

by Matthew Mankiewich

STARS (10-7-2) at CANUCKS (11-7-3)


Last 10: Dallas 6-2-2, Vancouver 5-3-2

Season series: This is the first of three meetings between the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars. Last season, the Stars split the two games against Vancouver at home and took the lone meeting at Rogers Arena.

Big story: These teams are going in opposite directions. The Canucks are mired in a three-game winless streak, and the Stars are enjoying a season-best five-game road win streak. Dallas scored seven goals against the Calgary Flames on Thursday. That's the same number of goals Vancouver has scored in its past five games combined.

Team Scope:

Stars: With Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos out indefinitely with a broken leg, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin made strong cases for a spot on the Canada Olympic team in the 7-3 win against the Flames. Benn scored a goal and five assists in a career-high six-point game, and Seguin scored four goals for a personal best.

"There's obviously so many great players in this League that can get picked," Benn said of his chances for an Olympic invitation. "I just came into camp this year with a focus of being the best player I can be. I'm just trying to get better each and every day."

Dallas' top line benefited from the addition of rookie Valeri Nichushkin, who had two assists and was a plus-4. It marked the first multipoint game for the 18-year-old Russian, whose 6-foot-4 frame adds a physical dimension to a line that could not be stopped in Calgary.

Canucks: Jannik Hansen is expected back in the Vancouver lineup after missing 10 games with a shoulder injury. He skated at practice Saturday on a line with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins, allowing Alexandre Burrows to rejoin Henrik and Daniel Sedin on the top line.

"He's a versatile guy, can play all positions, can play up and down the lineup," Canucks coach John Tortorella said of Hansen on Saturday. "We've missed him. He's a really good player."

The San Jose Sharks visited Vancouver on Thursday smarting from a home loss to the Canucks one week before. Kevin Bieksa opened the scoring in the first period, but Tomas Hertl tied the game with 1:05 left before Dan Boyle's power-play goal in overtime gave the Sharks a 2-1 win. Outscored 10-3 in a three-game losing skid, the Canucks have outshot their opponents 97-85 in that span, leading Kesler to believe that a scoring outburst is coming.

"Our zone time, our time of possession, our chances that we're getting, our shots, I mean, we're that close," Kesler said at practice Saturday. "We're going to break open pretty soon."

Who's hot: Seguin had the first four-goal game for the Stars since Jussi Jokinen on Nov. 16, 2007 against the Colorado Avalanche. Benn was the first Stars player to have six points in a game since Mike Modano on Feb. 1, 1995. Nichushkin has a goal and four assists in his past six games. ... Bieksa has four points in his past four games. Goaltender Roberto Luongo has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his past eight games.

Injury report: Stars forward Ray Whitney (lower body) is on injured reserve, which forced the Stars to call up Travis Morin this week. … Canucks forwards Jordan Schroeder (ankle) and Dale Weise (lower body) are on IR.

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