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Self-Assured Stars Face Unpredictable Canucks

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Which Vancouver will the Victory Green gang meet in this Western Conference showdown?

NHL: Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

After a short yet triumphant swing through Western Canada, the Dallas Stars return to the American Airlines Center to face a team they took down just last week. After a stellar October, the Vancouver Canucks have struggled mightily in November – but they still have one of the best forward lines in hockey, and injured depth players are making their way back into the lineup. Which team will the Stars see tonight?

The Stars have enjoyed a stunning reversal of fortune after their near-disastrous October and enter tonight’s game on a 10-1-1 roll. Jamie Benn ended his 15-game goal drought in spectacular fashion on Saturday, netting the overtime winner after a stunning comeback over the Edmonton Oilers.

That goal seems to cement the team’s return to high-event hockey. Tyler Seguin is rounding back into form. Justin Dowling has two goals in the past three games. And rookie sensation Denis Gurianov is not only holding his own, but making his linemates measurably better:

John Klingberg and Roope Hintz were on the ice before practice today, but Sean Shapiro offers the following caveat:

That includes Mattias Janmark, who didn’t participate in line rushes and will not return to the lineup tonight.

Ben Bishop will get the start tonight. He and Anton Khudobin have put together .925 and .921 save percentages, respectively. Both have continued to show they’re capable of keeping the Stars in the game until the offense heats up. That trust will be needed as the Stars start playing with more speed.


Nuck-le Puck

The Canucks begin a six-game road trip in the American Airlines Center tonight. They’re suffering through a reversal of their own, stumbling after their blazing start to lose seven out of nine games so far this month. The injury bug has bitten them hard, with Brandon Sutter (groin), Michael Ferland (concussion), Tyler Motte (foot) and Jay Beagle (undisclosed) all sidelined for part or all of the month.

The Lotto Line of Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller has been among the best in the league. The three forwards are providing the consistent even-strength scoring the team needs in its post-Sedins lineup.

On the other end of the spectrum, former Star Loui Eriksson is pointless so far this season and currently averaging around nine minutes of TOI. He continues to do time on the Canucks’ penalty kill, but it remains to be seen if he can be a difference-maker even there.

It’s bound to be a frustrating night for Stars fans in at least one regard. Antoine Roussel will make his third trip back to Dallas since signing with the Canucks, but he has yet to play against his former team. Rous started the season on injured reserve after having surgery for a torn ACL last spring. He’s practicing in a full-contact jersey as of yesterday and plans to rejoin the lineup during this road trip.

Tyler Myers has proven to be a fine defensive addition to Vancouver’s top pair, logging well over 20 minutes per night. However, he’s been struggling to reach the score sheet – he has four assists so far this season, with only one logged in November, and has yet to tally his first goal as a Canuck.

That puts him on roughly the same scoring pace as – wait for it! – Jordie Benn, who’s put up similar numbers with 17 minutes average TOI. Yukon Cornelius continues to play a quiet, yet solid game for his original hometown team and is a big contributor on Vancouver’s high-performing PK. Will the Benn brothers mix it up a little for the Dallas crowd again? (The fans love it, after all.)

Speaking of brother acts, you may not have chosen Quinn Hughes as the one who would have the biggest NHL impact this season. But the 19-year-old rookie blueliner leads the league in offensive zone possession and ranks eighth in end-to-end rushes. He’s fast becoming a franchise cornerstone as part of a young core that will only get more dangerous with experience.

Jacob Markstrom was in net for the Canucks’ home loss to the Stars last week. Will Thatcher Demko get the nod for the rematch?

Dallas Stars Lineup

The Stars’ projected lines:

FORWARDS

Jamie Benn - Justin Dowling - Tyler Seguin
Denis Gurianov - Joe Pavelski - Alexander Radulov
Nick Caamano - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

DEFENSE

Esa Lindell - Taylor Fedun
Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera - Roman Polak

GOALTENDER

Ben Bishop

Vancouver Canucks Lineup

The Canucks looked like this in practice yesterday:

FORWARDS

Tanner Pearson - Bo Horvat - Jake Virtanen
Sven Baertschi - Adam Gaudette - Josh Leivo
J.T. Miller - Elias Pettersson - Brock Boeser
Tim Schaller - Jay Beagle - Loui Eriksson

DEFENSE

Alexander Edler - Tyler Myers
Jordie Benn - Troy Stecher
Quinn Hughes - Christopher Tanev

GOALTENDERS

Jacob Markstrom
Thatcher Demko