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Slumping Stars visit battered Canucks

by Adam Kimelman
STARS (31-21-6) at CANUCKS (37-13-9)

TV --
CBC (HD); TXA 21 (HD)

Last 10 -- Dallas 2-7-1; Vancouver 7-3-0

Season series -- The Canucks can sweep the four-game season series with a win Saturday. The Canucks have allowed one goal in each of the previous three games, including a 25-save effort by Corey Schneider in a 4-1 win in Dallas on Feb. 1.

Big story -- The Stars have slid from third in the Western Conference all the way to seventh during a current 1-6-1 slide, and they haven't won in regulation since Jan. 26. Can they right the ship -- without the injured Brad Richards -- before its too late?

The Canucks are dealing with their own injury issues, as they're currently missing five regular defensemen -- but they're still on top of the overall NHL standings.

Team Scope:

Stars -- Coach Marc Crawford had a good feeling when his team took a 2-1 second-period lead in Calgary on Wednesday, but the game ended with the same old result -- the Flames scored late in the period to tie it, and then added two more in the third to hand the Stars a 4-2 defeat.

"It was another hard lesson for us tonight,'' Crawford told the Dallas Morning News following the game. "It was better, there's no doubt about that. But at the same time, we can still work harder. There's a lot more for us to give, and we've got to push to get it."

Canucks -- Vancouver wasn't blaming the rash of injured players for Thursday's loss to the Predators. Instead, it was a lack of timing by the healthy ones. Turnovers and bad line changes allowed the Preds to take a 3-1 victory.

"In a tight game like this -- they're a tight-checking team -- you make it really hard on yourself when you basically give them the goals and don't make them earn them," Christian Ehrhoff, one of the team's few healthy defensemen, told the Vancouver Sun. "Second goal, I probably could have made a better play in the corner. I read the pressure wrong and made a bad play, and they got a tip on the shot. I could have made a better play there and that would have made a difference."

On one goal, a mistimed line change and soft checking by Henrik Sedin led to one goal, and Aaron Rome lost an edge allowing another goal.

Who's hot -- Stars captain Brenden Morrow has 6 goals and 8 points in his last 11 games. … Daniel Sedin's goal Wednesday against Nashville was his 30th of the season -- the third time in the last five season he's had that many.

Injury report -- The Stars will be without forwards Richards (upper-body injury), Jamie Benn (shoulder), Adam Burish (orbital) and Krys Barch (orbital). The Dallas Morning News is reporting defenseman Nicklas Grossman (hip) could play Saturday. … The Canucks won't be getting any of their five missing blueliners -- Andrew Alberts (wrist), Alexander Edler (back), Dan Hamhuis (concussion), Keith Ballard (knee) and Kevin Bieksa (broken foot) -- back any time soon.

Stat pack -- The Stars have to stay out of the penalty box in this one. The Canucks have the League's best power play at 25.2 percent, while the Stars rank 25th on the penalty kill at 78.8 percent.

Puck drop -- Despite icing a defense made mostly of AHL call-ups, coach Alain Vigneault has managed to limit the ice time of arguably his best current defenseman -- and a player who might be in the running for that title if the team had its full complement of blueliners -- Sami Salo.

Salo has played more than 20 minutes just once in his four games since making his season debut following a preseason Achilles tendon injury. Salo has averaged more than 20 minutes per game for most of his eight seasons with the Canucks, but Vigneault figures there's no reason to rush Salo, 36, into big minutes now. Better to limit his minutes now -- and sacrifice a win or two if necessary -- to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

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