CANUCKS (3-2-3) at STARS (7-2-0)
TV: SNV, FS-SW
DALLAS -- Center Brendan Gaunce will make his NHL debut Thursday for the Vancouver Canucks when they face the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
The 26th pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Gaunce had one goal and one assist in five games with Utica of the American Hockey League when he was recalled. He is the younger brother of defenseman Cameron Gaunce, who played nine games for Dallas during the 2013-14 season.
"Yeah, it's something I've wanted to do my whole life, is play in the NHL. It was definitely a very rewarding feeling for all the last 15 years of playing hockey," said Gaunce, who will play left wing on the fourth line alongside rookie center Jared McCann and right wing Derek Dorsett.
The Canucks (4-2-3) are looking to remain undefeated on the road. They dealt the Montreal Canadiens their first loss of the season, 5-1 at Rogers Arena on Tuesday, thanks largely to two goals from McCann, who will play his eighth NHL game.
Canucks coach Willie Desjardins is keeping his forward lines the same from the Montreal game with the exception of Gaunce replacing right wing Adam Cracknell on the fourth line. His defensive pairings remain intact except for Matt Bartkowski replacing Dam Hamhuis on the third pair alongside Luca Sbisa after Hamhuis sustained a lower-body injury on Tuesday.
Goalie Ryan Miller was first off the ice for the Canucks and will start his 10th consecutive game.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff is keeping his forward lines intact after a 4-3 comeback win against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
Ruff is making two changes to his defense pairs. Jason Demers, who finished serving a two-game suspension for elbowing Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino last Thursday, returns to his usual spot on the second pairing alongside Johnny Oduya.
With Demers returning, Jordie Benn, who had been filling in alongside Oduya in the past two games, drops down to the third pair alongside Jyrki Jokipakka, who was paired with Jamie Oleksiak against Anaheim. Oleksiak is now a scratch along with Patrik Nemeth.
Goalie Antti Niemi was first off the ice for Dallas (7-2-0) and will start a second consecutive game.
This is the first of three games with Vancouver this season and Ruff knows the young Canucks, who the Stars have won seven consecutive games against, will present a solid challenge.
"They hadn't lost a game on the road. Their penalty killing's been real good on the road. I think they're a little bit younger. They got some good speed, they got a lot of faceoff play you got to be aware of," Ruff said. "[Radim] Vrbata for me is a real good goal scorer when you get him anywhere in tight and [Brandon] Sutter, he's had a nice start for them."
Here are the projected lineups:
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Radim Vrbata
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Jannik Hansen
Alexandre Burrows – Brandon Sutter – Jake Virtanen
Brendan Gaunce – Jared McCann – Derek Dorsett
Alexander Edler – Christopher Tanev
Ben Hutton – Yannick Weber
Luca Sbisa - Matt Bartkowski
Injured: Dan Hamhuis (lower body), Chris Higgins (foot), Jacob Markstrom (lower body), Brandon Prust (ankle)
Scratched: Alex Biega, Adam Cracknell
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin - Tyler Seguin
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Mattias Janmark – Radek Faksa – Ales Hemsky
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn
Injured: Patrick Eaves (lower body), Curtis McKenzie (hip), Travis Moen (upper body)
Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak
Status report: Cracknell is a healthy scratch for the fourth time this season. … Nemeth will be a healthy scratch for the ninth time in 10 games while Oleksiak will be for the eighth time this season.
Who's hot: Vancouver leads the NHL with a 54.9 percent win percentage in the faceoff circle. … Dallas is currently tied for third in the League with 31 goals.