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Canucks try to keep rolling vs. Stars

by Mike Battaglino

STARS (7-6-1) at CANUCKS (8-2-2)

TV: FS-Southwest, SNET-Pacific

Last 10: Dallas 5-5-0; Vancouver 8-1-1

Season series: This is the first of three meetings; the teams play again next Thursday. The Canucks are 11-2-1 in their past 14 against the Stars, outscoring them 51-29.

Big story: Vancouver has won six in a row to climb the Western Conference standings. With Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider (who likely will start this game) splitting time in net, the Canucks have allowed an NHL-low 25 goals (tied with the Boston Bruins).

"It seems everybody is stepping up left and right, and obviously we know we are getting tremendous goaltending every night and it's winning us a lot of games right now," forward Jannik Hansen said. "Points we are getting now are points we don't have to fight for toward the end of the regular season."

Dallas is coming off a demoralizing 7-4 loss to the Calgary Flames that ended a four-game winning streak which pushed them into the top eight in the West.

Team Scope:

Stars: Dallas got away from its defensive game when it allowed four goals to Calgary in the first period. The Stars had given up two or fewer goals eight times in the previous 13 games.

"I don't know if we weren't ready as much as we weren't ready to compete," coach Glen Gulutzan said Wednesday. "We were soft, soft in the beginning, soft with our sticks, soft with our plays. We weren't ready."

Goalie Kari Lehtonen is 5-0-0 with a 1.77 goals-against average in February. But he is 0-3-0 with a 5.19 GAA in three career starts at Vancouver.

Canucks: The surging team would get a huge boost Friday if Ryan Kesler plays his first game of the season. The center, who would not say he'll be in the lineup, practiced fully Thursday and seemingly is recovered from offseason surgery on his left shoulder and left wrist.

"It's another step in the right direction," Kesler said. "I felt good out there. But like I said, no timeline yet."

Though his ice time could be limited, Kesler should improve the team's power play (17th in the League, 17.2 percent) and penalty kill (22nd, 78.0 percent).

"My initial thoughts are to keep the minutes reasonable," coach Alain Vigneault said. "He has been our forward we've used playing our most minutes per game. I don't expect that [Friday]."

Who's hot: In the past five games, Stars forward Jamie Benn has eight points, Jaromir Jagr has six, Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow each have five. Since being a healthy scratch Feb. 6, defenseman Alex Goligoski has three assists in three games. … Canucks defenseman Alex Edler has nine points to rank second on the team (forward Daniel Sedin is tops with 10). Forward Mason Raymond has five points in his past four games. Hansen has his first three goals in the past four games.

Injury report: Stars forward Ray Whitney (foot) is out until mid-March. … Canucks forward Manny Malhotra (eye) was placed on injured reserve Thursday and is out for the season. Forward David Booth (groin) remains sidelined by a preseason injury.

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