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What to watch for as Stars resume road trip at Vancouver

Dallas aims to carry over momentum from Friday's win over Calgary and snap the Canucks' hot streak

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

VANCOUVER -- The Dallas Stars are looking for their first road winning streak of the season as they visit the surprising Vancouver Canucks, winners of four straight, Monday night at Rogers Arena.

Here are some thoughts and meanderings from one of the continent's most beautiful cities.

 

1. Martin Hanzal suffers setback

One of the Stars' top penalty killers, Martin Hanzal, will be out of the lineup with a recurring lower-body injury. The team will be taking a wait-and-see attitude as to whether he'll be ready for the team's next game in Winnipeg on Thursday. 

"He'll probably skate tomorrow or the next day with us, and we'll see if he's ready for Winnipeg," head coach Ken Hitchcock said Monday after the team's morning skate. "If he doesn't practice full one of the next two days, then we'll hold him out and play him when we get home." 

Although Hanzal, who missed time in training camp with an ankle injury, has just one goal -- an empty-netter -- and is minus-9 on the season, he has been a key figure defensively. 

"There's a reason we're being so good on penalty killing," Hitchcock said. "He's been a major factor in that, and it's also he lines up against the other team's top players a lot of nights. He's negated a lot of good players so far this year. This has been unfortunate for him. Because every time he seems to be really catching his stride, he ends up getting hurt. So he's had three setbacks this year -- not including training camp -- so it's been tough for him."

 

2. Absence forces shuffle

The absence of Hanzal will see Jason Spezza, still without a goal this season, move back to center with Antoine Roussel moving to the left side and Brett Ritchie on the right. 

Spezza has been playing on the right side in the hopes of allowing him to jump more quickly into the offensive fray. The big line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov will remain the same. Remi Elie, who sat out last game, will draw back into the lineup and play with Devin Shore and Mattias Janmark. Radek Faksa will center a line with Gemel Smith, who was excellent in Calgary in just his second game of the season, and Tyler Pitlick. 

The defensive unit remains untouched from Friday's game, although Stephen Johns could be ready to rejoin the team after going through concussion protocol.

Video: Hanzal out against Canucks

 

3. In Bish we trust

Ben Bishop will return the Stars' net after acting as backup to Kari Lehtonen in Friday's important 2-1 win over Calgary. Bishop will be looking to get back on track after he was pulled in last Tuesday's game against Colorado with Dallas trailing 3-2, setting off a mini controversy regarding the decision to remove him. 

Bishop started Friday's game in Edmonton and suffered the loss, allowing five goals on 35 shots as the Stars blew a 4-3 third-period lead. Hard to fault Bishop, though, as two of the goals went in off teammates' skates, including the winner, and Connor McDavid scored on a breakaway. 

That said, if the Stars are going to have a chance of finishing at .500 or better on this five-game road trip, Bishop will need to be at his best against a Vancouver team that has rolled four lines effectively in getting off to a 6-3-1 start.

 

4. Cooking up something special

The Stars have the top-rated power play in the NHL. That's what happens when you score at least one power-play goal in eight of 11 games thus far. 

The power play has been especially formidable on this trip, going 5-for-8 in their last two games. More importantly, the second power-play unit has been able to chip in the last two games, with two goals from Esa Lindell -- something that hadn't happened through the first nine games of the season. 

The penalty kill has been almost as impressive as it ranks second in the NHL in efficiency. The Stars have not allowed a power-play goal in seven straight games, killing all 21 opportunities over that time. 

Throw in a face-off efficiency that ranks fifth in the league and that goes a long way to explaining why Hitchcock feels his team has played better than its 6-5-0 record suggests.

Video: Gagner's Texas roots run deep

 

5. Canucks to be without Boeser

The Canucks will be without their top point-producer as rookie Brock Boeser, who has nine points to lead Vancouver, is dealing with a foot injury. 

Head coach Travis Green said Boeser would be unavailable for Monday's game. 

This is a team that has historically relied primarily on the production of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and then let the chips fall beyond that. No more. This season, the Canucks have gotten the job done by committee. 

"I think what's happened is that Travis has done a helluva job at including everybody in the mixture here," Hitchcock said. "It's not just the Sedins. You still have to plan against them. We showed two clips today of how good they are in certain aspects that everybody knows and sees. But they got balance. They got real balance. And he's included everybody, and he's made everybody accountable. Now they got depth." 

Point in fact, Derek Dorsett leads the team with six goals, and free-agent acquisition Thomas Vanek has four goals. Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi also have four apiece.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.

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