A New Years Eve tradition, the Dallas Stars have hosted a game on the final night of the year every season since 1997. They're 16-11-3 all-time on NYE and have won two straight but are just 2-3-0 overall since the lockout. Last year Loui Eriksson treated the AAC faithful to a hat trick in a win over the Ducks.
The Canucks, meanwhile, have the league's 2nd ranked power play, the league's 2nd ranked offense, the league's 2nd ranked points %, the leagues 4th ranked power play, etc, etc. The list goes on and on. They are by far the best face off team in the league with an absolutely gaudy 57.3% coming into tonight's game and that's an area where the Stars have had some struggles recently. (The Stars are down to 24th in the league in faceoffs).
Vancouver's incredible 12-1-2 record in their last 15 games includes a 5-0-1 mark on the road. They're simply awesome no matter where they play. This would be their 11th win in December here tonight while a fourth consecutive loss at home would be something the Stars haven't done in nearly two years.
The Canucks are well rested, not having played since Tuesday and the Stars have played twice since then. An edge in net seems to have presented itself with backup Cory Schneider playing in Luongo's stead, but the understudy has not lost in regulation this year going a stellar 5-0-2 in his starts.
I'd say something negative about the Canucks if I could find something. Really.
Continued after the jump...
Dallas has a chance to bring their point total up to 50 before 2011 arrives and well before the midway mark of the season next week. It took 48 and 47 games in the last two season to reach 50 points. This is game 39.
Their Wednesday game against Detroit was the antithesis of their 4-2 win over Nashville on Tuesday. The Predators controlled the play, dominating the Stars for the first 40 minutes but a three goal outburst from Dallas earned them the two points. The Stars were dominating (5 on 5) play against the Red Wings and out-shooting them, bringing a 3-3 tie into the third when things unraveled, dropping Dallas to 3-4 this season on the second half of back-to-backs.
Dallas has a better record (.600) when being out-shot this year than when they out-shoot their opponents (.556).
All three Dallas goals came at even strength on Wednesday and within 74 seconds of each other. Had the power play been able to cash in during the third period with the score 4-3 Detroit, or even earlier in the game with the score close, the outcome could have been different, but a 22.6% home PP could not come through for Dallas.
Detroit scored on all their power play chances and it's a concern for Friday night. Another parade to the box or seemingly unnecessary penalties behind the play, as were taken on Wednesday, could sink Dallas against an outstanding Canucks PP.
Kari Lehtonen will start in goal. Aaron Gagnon has been sent back to the Texas Stars, meaning Sutherby or Segal will be back in the lineup. There's a chance that Matt Niskanen will return as well and either Mark Fistric (and his two game goal scoring streak) or Jeff Woywitka could be the healthy scratch, as Crawford likes to keep everyone involved.
The reason Roberto Luongo will not be in net is that he has rushed home to be with his wife as she gives birth to a son. Thus Cory Schneider who, as was already intimated, is a well above average backup. The Stars will get no break there.
Hard to hate Schneider, as he is a good American boy, but we'll try our best tomorrow night.
Friday’s match against Marc Crawford's Stars pits two division leaders with similar records. The Canucks have 22 wins and 49 points while the Stars have 22 wins and 48 points. Vancouver has played three fewer games, however, and is coming off a resounding 6-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Dallas was thumped 7-3 by Detroit in its last outing, a home-ice defeat Wednesday night.
Kind words, but the two team December's tell a tale of very different situations and attitudes. They're saying all the right things but more importantly, doing all the right things on the ice.
The injury report from NHL.com...
Vancouver could be close to getting forward Mason Raymond back from a broken thumb, while defenseman Sami Salo, who had Achilles surgery during the offseason, has started skating with the team as well. Also out are forwards Guillaume Desbiens (hand), Mason Raymond (hand), Peter Schaefer (undisclosed) and Rick Rypien (personal).
There are still some seats left for tonight so hurry on over to the Stars official site and snatch them up. It should be a good party downtown regardless of who wins the hockey game.