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Matthias to debut for Canucks, Thomas joins Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- When the Vancouver Canucks and the Dallas Stars square off at American Airlines Center on Thursday night, each team will have at least one new face on its roster.

For Vancouver, which lost 1-0 at the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday and is 1-9-1 over its past 11 games, those new faces will be center Shawn Matthias and goaltender Jacob Markstrom, both acquired in the trade with the Florida Panthers on Wednesday that sent Roberto Luongo and Steven Anthony to the Panthers.

Matthias will likely slot into centering the Canucks' third line alongside Tom Sestito and David Booth, and Vancouver coach John Tortorella likes the skill set his new centerman provides.

"It's a big body up the middle that I also can use on wing, a guy that can kill some penalties," Tortorella said. "I'm really anxious to see him play and then we'll go from there. For me to talk about expectations, it'd be unfair, but I'm anxious to see him play and he'll play."

Markstrom will back up Eddie Lack, who will start his fifth straight game in net for the Canucks.

Tortorella will mix up his forward lines a bit, dropping Jordan Schroeder from the third to fourth line to make room for Matthias, with Brad Richardson being scratched. Alexandre Burrows moves up from the second to the first line with Chris Higgins dropping to the second line from the top line.

Those changes are being made with one goal in mind, to get Tortorella's players scoring more goals. Heading into Thursday, the Canucks had scored eight goals over their past eight games and Vancouver's 145 goals ranks as the second fewest in the NHL, ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres (124).

"We're trying a lot of different things. I think we tried to loosen it up (in practice) yesterday," Tortorella said. "There's no sense of browbeating. There's no sense of being negative. In these types of situations it's tough enough, it's just not fun. We have to try to get some sort of lightness and some sort of energy in ourselves for us to even have a chance to win a game."

Dallas has a new backup goaltender in Tim Thomas, who was acquired from Florida on Wednesday for Dan Ellis. Thomas, who was teammates with Stars centers Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin with the Boston Bruins, will back up starter Kari Lehtonen for the game Thursday, but he's excited about joining the Stars.

"Yeah, I'm very excited to be here and to have the opportunity to play with another group of guys and to make the push for the playoffs here," Thomas said. "It's an exciting opportunity."

The Stars are looking to rebound from a 4-2 loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, a game they didn't start well and found themselves trailing 3-0 after one period. Starting better against the Canucks is at the top of the priority list for Dallas coach Lindy Ruff.

"You know for me, it's going to start with execution," Ruff said. "Some of our playmaking early in the Tampa game wasn't good. I thought the Columbus game basically we just stuck our toe in the water. We didn't jump in. We were tentative in the offensive zone, which led to them coming out. We can't start the game half in."

Ruff is keeping his forward lines and defensive pairings the same from the loss to Columbus with one exception. Peverley will return to the top line alongside Seguin and captain Jamie Benn with Ray Whitney, who started the Blue Jackets game on that line, returning to the fourth line.

Here are the projected lineups:


Alexandre BurrowsHenrik SedinZack Kassian

Chris HigginsRyan KeslerJannik Hansen

Tom SestitoShawn MatthiasDavid Booth

Zac DalpeJordan SchroederDarren Archibald

Dan HamhuisChristopher Tanev

Alexander EdlerKevin Bieksa

Jason GarrisonRyan Stanton

Eddie Lack

Jacob Markstrom

Scratched: Brad Richardson, Yannick Weber

Injured: Andrew Alberts (concussion), Mike Santorelli (torn labrum), Daniel Sedin (lower body)


Jamie BennTyler SeguinRich Peverley

Erik Cole - Cody EakinAlex Chiasson

Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerRyan Garbutt

Ray WhitneyShawn Horcoff - Valeri Nichushkin

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley

Jordie BennBrenden Dillon

Kevin ConnautonSergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen

Tim Thomas

Scratched: Aaron Rome

Injured: none

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