Friday, March 30th, 2012, 9:00 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Nucks Misconduct
The Dallas Stars are tied once again with the Phoenix Coyotes at 89 points after the San Jose Sharks dropped another one in the desert last night, but they retain the Pacific Division lead for the moment, and desperately need points to keep it. Once again, it's the 'biggest game of the year' for the Stars tonight.
The Stars, depending on your particular philosophical bent this morning, have either won two of three or have lost four of their last seven. Any way you look at it, they took care of business against what had been a hot Edmonton team on Wednesday with a 3-1 win.
"We are in a battle for our lives and we need every point we can get," said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan after Wednesday's win. "Getting two tonight was big for us."
Getting even a single point tonight would qualify as huge with another big game against the San Jose Sharks coming up tomorrow night at the Tank.
The Stars own a 2-1-0 record against Vancouver this season, including a 5-2 win at Rogers Arena earlier this month, but the Canucks took down the Stars in a chippy affair just eight days ago in Dallas. The Stars let their emotions get the better of them, handing several power plays to Vancouver late while trying to come back. Cooler heads must prevail tonight if Dallas is to collect points.
Vancouver has won four straight entering this game and has not allowed a single goal in seven and a half periods.
Los Angeles battles Edmonton at Rexall concurrent with this game tonight so first place in the Pacific is once again in doubt, and will likely be every night moving forward until it's over.
This one has been picked up by NBC Sports Network nationally but it also on the schedule to be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest+ in DFW. It's on TSN if you're one of our friends north of the border.
More on each team after the jump...
Mark Fistric (abdomen), Radek Dvorak (ankle) and Eric Nystrom (leg) will all miss this one, though Mark Fistric is improving the most of the group. That leaves Glen Gulutzan to continue to juggling the lower half of his forward lineup, though after a win you'd expect things to remain largely similar in this one.
The lines started this way:
Tomas Vincour and Adam Burish spent considerable time flip-flopped from those lines, so we'll keep an eye out for that tonight as the line combinations past Ribeiro's trio were a very fluid concept Wednesday night.
More special teams than they'd like (a theme lately, and on the season as a whole) kept Reilly Smith firmly planted on the bench and if he gets into such a large game again, the same could happen. The Stars wisely kept two eyes on the playoff race Wednesday and only glanced at the future every now and then where the minute distribution was concerned.
In Dallas Coach Gulutzan sent Jamie Benn's line out more often than not to watch Ryan Kesler's dangerous bunch, and he tried to get them out there against them as often as he could the last time the Stars were in Vancouver. The Canucks, meanwhile, opted to put the Kesler line out against the Fiddler line when possible and even snuck a couple of scoring chances in against the Stars fourth line that night. [Game 66 scoring chances] It should be another interesting night of watching the chess match.
From Stars PR: "Friday's game will be Dallas' final contest against a Northwest Division team. The Stars have had great success against teams from the Northwest this season, earning a 14-5-0 record so far. The last time they won 14 against the Northwest was the 2006-07 season (14 wins), with their last 15-win season against that division coming in 2005-06.
Kari Lehtonen is two wins shy of tying his career-high for a season (34). Since the All-Star Break, Lehtonen has earned a .930 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.04 goals against average (GAA)."
Coach Gulutzan stated Thursday after practice that Kari Lehtonen would play both night of the back to back. Richard Bachman earned the win in Dallas' first trip to Vancouver this season.
When last we checked in with Vancouver the Canucks were mired in a bit of a slump and had lost 8 of their previous 11 games, with many saying that they lacked motivation due to being stuck in the #2 seed in the Western Conference.
Fast forward eight days and they've changed their tune considerably, entering this one winners of four straight, including that game against Dallas on the 22nd at American Airlines Center. They've single handedly taken Colorado out of the playoff mix with two hard fought wins over their Northwestern foe, and they handed the Kings a helpful defeat on home ice with a 1-0 shutout.
Speaking of shutouts, the Canucks haven't allowed a goal in 148:59 stretching back to the second period in Colorado on March 24th. Roberto Luongo oversaw the first shutout, stopping 38 against Los Angeles, and Cory Schneider the second, stopping all 43 he faced on Wednesday night.
Those numbers are impressive. Perhaps even a little too impressive. It makes you wonder why the Canucks have surrendered 43 and 38 shots in their last two games. That may lead you to ask why the Canucks have allowed 354 shots in their last ten contests overall. In fact, the game in Dallas last week was the only one in that stretch in which they did not allow 30 shots (just 26 that night). In the other nine contests they allowed 32 or more, so they'll let you get some pucks to their net.
The return to their winning ways aside, they're still scoring very few goals - Just a total of eight in their last five games. Leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin officially has a concussion and the team hasn't commented much past that, so it's doubtful that he'd be back for this one.
We'd expect Luongo in goal, but with both netminders bringing shutouts into this one and Schneider having played such a nice game against Dallas last week, it's anyone's guess until we hear more. It's quite a luxury for them.
Their expected lineup: