Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ Vancouver Canucks (9:00pm CST)

Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

The Stars will try to end their three-game Canadian road swing on a positive note, but face a nearly perfect Vancouver Canucks team in the process.

The Dallas Stars broke their four-game win streak Wednesday in convincing fashion, allowing the Calgary Flames four first-period goals en-route to a 7-4 shellacking at the Saddledome, and now move on to Vancouver in search of a difficult response.

"You can't get down 3-0 in another's team's barn on a back-to-back, you can't give them two power plays and get down," said Gulutzan after the rout. "You just can't do that. You can't win that way."

Dallas started slow in Caglary, losing puck battles and position throughout while allowing the Flames four goals in the first period. The same happened in Edmonton the night before, but Kari Lehtonen was able to contain things until Dallas could push back.

They'll have to break that pattern if they're to earn points tonight against a Vancouver club that has allowed just six (!) total goals in their current six-game win streak. If they fall behind early again, catching up will be more of an uphill climb than usual.

The Canucks could get a big lift (that they don't strictly need) if Ryan Kesler makes his expected, and highly anticipated return to the lineup tonight. Vancouver has out-scored Dallas 29-16 over their last eight meetings.

The puck drops tonight at 9:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest.

The Stars:

The Stars have scored 17 goals in five games since the big line-reconfiguration upon Derek Roy's return to the lineup with a signed Jamie Benn - 3.4 per contest. So the offense has been fixed, to an extent, and has been producing on the road. It's the defense that's been the problem - and taxing Kari Lehtonen too much, which will catch up to them eventually.

The good news is that Kari Lehtonen was never called into the game while Richard Bachman surrendered six, and is rested and fresh for this one tonight.

Meanwhile Gulutzan had Antoine Roussel play third line minutes with Cody Eakin and Reilly Smith Thursday night, but you'd expect Tomas Vincour to be back in that spot for this one. The Eakin line was not on the ice for any of the even-strength Calgary goals.

We'll expect the lineup to be something like this...

Morrow-Benn-Jagr
Eriksson-Roy-Ryder
Smith-Eakin-Vincour
Nystrom-Fiddler-Garbutt/Roussel

Dillon-Robidas
Daley-Rome (?)
Goligoski-Larsen.

The Canucks:

Dallas is playing their third game in four nights, but the Canucks have enjoyed some rest. They've had two days off at home, and this will be only their second game in six nights - Another advantage for a team that's won 8 of their first 12, and collected points in 10 of them.

The secret to their success isn't hard to figure out - They don't get scored on. In 10 of 12 games they've held their opponents to two goals or less. In their current six-game win streak they've allowed 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, and 0. Their 1.92 goals-per-game allowed is third in the league, and their 2.10 five-on-five goals for/against ratio is far and away tops in the NHL.

Their power play has been mediocre, and their penalty killing is technically 22nd in the league at 78.0%, but it's skewed by their first game of the year, an aberrational 7-2 loss to the Ducks that's had nothing to do with their season since. Anaheim went 3-for-3 that night, but since the Canucks have killed at 83%, which would be top-12 in the league.

By the way, without that 7-2 loss to the Ducks, they've allowed 16 goals in 11 games - 1.45 ga/g. An absolutely phenomenal number.

Manny Malhotra has been missing this week for a personal reason, and Thursday afternoon the club announced that he will not play any more games this season owing to complications with his eye injury.

Lines could look like this...

Thing 1- Thing 2 -Burrows
Raymond-Kesler-Hansen
Higgins-Lapierre-Kassian
Weise-Ebbett-Volpatti

Garrison-Bieksa
Hamhuis-Edler
Ballard-Tanev

Cory Schneider? Roberto Luongo?

It doesn't matter, they've both been great and as Dallas is seeing with perhaps under-performing backups, it's quite a luxury. Update: Probably Cory Schneider.

Here's a look at the Canucks from regular DDB contributor Jeff Angus, who knows the Canucks well...

Dallas will have their hands full with the Canucks tonight. Vancouver has been rolling this season, even without arguably their best player (who happens to be making his season debut tonight). It doesn’t seem to matter who the Canucks put in goal – both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo have been giving the Canucks fantastic goaltending (save for the opening night loss to Anaheim).

Here are three keys to beating the Canucks tonight:

1) Slow the game down Jaromir Jagr alluded to this style of game a few days ago – Dallas doesn’t have the skaters to implement a run-and-gun attack, and the Canucks are a very, very fast team (outside of their top line). The Mason Raymond-Jordan Schroeder-Jannik Hansen line is arguably the fastest in hockey, and there are fantastic skaters on the back end, too. Dallas will need to use its size and work the boards if they want to generate offense tonight.

2) Don’t overplay defensively The Canucks are among the best teams in the league at forcing opposing defensemen into overplaying. Aaron Rome has some experience playing with most of Vancouver’s forwards, so he can probably supply some sort of an advanced scouting report. Even then, teams have tried to slow the Sedins down in so many ways without much success. The scary part – they aren’t even really "rolling" yet, either.

3) Play physically Team toughness is probably one area where the Stars can match up with the Canucks. This isn’t a call to arms for a number of fights, but the Stars need to finish their checks (especially on Kesler, who hasn’t played a game of competitive hockey in almost a year). This is the best start the Canucks have gotten off to in quite some time. Their best players are still shaking off some lockout-induced rust, and they have been without Kesler and David Booth all season long. They have been winning games with great goaltending, balanced scoring, and puck possession. This will be a great test for Dallas – not a game they are expected to win, but that is why the game is played on ice and not paper.

Find more of Jeff's work here on Tuesday's or at www.anguscertified.com

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