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Stars face Canucks in pursuit of playoff berth

by Davis Harper

CANUCKS (24-12-7) at STARS (21-18-3)


Last 10: Vancouver 6-3-1; Dallas 6-4-0

Season series: This is the last of three meetings. The visiting side prevailed in each of the previous two by a one-goal margin.

Big story: With six games remaining, the 10th-place Dallas Stars will be looking for a valuable home victory before embarking on a three-game road swing. The Vancouver Canucks are more or less stuck as the third seed in the Western Conference -- they are four points behind the second-place Anaheim Ducks with one more game played -- but they have yet to clinch the Northwest Division. Vancouver is 4-0-1 over its past five at American Airlines Center.

Team Scope:

Canucks: In a season when many have endured up-and-down campaigns, Vancouver has been relatively stable since January. An already strong Canucks team -- 11-3-1 over its past 15 games -- received another boost with the return of forward Ryan Kesler on April 8. Kesler has three goals and three assists over the five games since.

Tuesday, the Canucks lost to the St. Louis Blues, 2-1 in a shootout, exposing one of Vancouver’s few weaknesses. It was their sixth shootout loss of the season, which is tied for the NHL lead.

Stars: So much for planning for the future. When Dallas parted with leading scorer Jaromir Jagr, captain Brenden Morrow and forward Derek Roy for prospects and picks at the NHL Trade Deadline, many thought the Stars had thrown in the towel on their season. But with a season-high five straight wins in April (four against teams currently in the postseason picture), Dallas is in the thick of things.

To stay there, Dallas needs points, something it didn’t get Monday against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Western leaders scored three times in the third period for a 5-2 win and season sweep.

"We kept it close, but we definitely know what we have to do to be the best and beat the best," said forward Jamie Benn, who scored his first two goals since March 31. "Hopefully we can just keep pushing here. We still have a chance to make the playoffs and that's what we're going for."

Who’s hot: With Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen sidelined by a lower-body injury, backup Richard Bachman kept it close against the Blackhawks, saving 23 shots against a relentless Chicago attack. Bachman had won three straight, giving up three goals with a .962 save percentage over that stretch.

Injury report: Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa (groin) is questionable. Forwards Chris Higgins (knee) and David Booth (ankle) and defenseman Christopher Tanev (leg) are out indefinitely. … Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (upper body) and forward Alex Chiasson (upper body) are questionable. Forward Lane MacDermid (back) is out indefinitely.

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