The Dallas Stars still lead Pacific Division, but that could easily change again as another night full of NHL action might result in more shuffling in the Western Conference. The Stars start a key back-to-back on the road tonight against the Vancouver Canucks tonight, and without at least one point they could lose the division lead. With the Stars playing in Vancouver and the Los Angeles Kings playing in Edmonton, the Kings could jump over the Stars with a win and a Stars loss tonight. But the big picture has to be maintained, as the Stars play tonight and then have another huge game tomorrow night in California against the San Jose Sharks, before heading home to host the Sharks on Tuesday. While they still have two games after this next three, the Stars’ success against the Canucks and Sharks could all but win them the Pacific division, or it could push them back outside of the top eight.
The Stars will attempt to pick up points this weekend without a few players in the lineup. Mark Fistric continues to sit out and now the Stars are just hoping to have him back by Tuesday, while Eric Nystrom and Radek Dvorak will be out again tonight and both are questionable for tomorrow night. The Stars defense will look the same as it has the last few games with Fistric out, but the forward lines are being shuffled a little. Tom Wandell is out sick and will not play at least tonight. As a result Jake Dowell will center the fourth line again. But the other change is that Adam Burish is sliding down to Dvorak’s normal spot while Tomas Vincour will jump up to second line. For the Canucks, the lineup looks about the same from when the two teams faced-off last weekend but Kevin Bieksa will not play tonight. With Bieksa, Daniel Sedin, and Keith Ballard all out of the lineup, the Canucks lineup looks a little bit more manageable for the Stars.
The puck will drop from the far northwest at 9:00PM central time for the final meeting between the two teams. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest Plus and NBC Sports Network, and as always the game can be found on 1310AM The ticket. Both teams will throw out their starting netminders tonight, as Kari Lehtonen and Roberto Luongo will start in the creases. Last weekend the Canucks beat the Stars 2-1 in Dallas, but the Stars won the first two meeting of the season by holding the Canucks to two goals both times. While Dallas has had better luck against the Canucks this season, they lost focus in their last meeting and let Vancouver sneak out with a win in a slow and chippy game. Look for the Stars to try and stay focused tonight, hoping to avoid some of the discipline problems they have had recently. Winning could give the Stars a little room during the final week, but another loss at the hands of the Canucks could put the Stars up against a wall heading into San Jose.
- The Canucks have won four straight, including a 1-0 win over Colorado on Wednesday that all-but-officially put the Avs out of the playoff picture.
- Lehtonen is 14-7-2 with a 2.09 goals against and .935 save percentage on the road this year.
- Dallas overall is 20-16-2 on the road with three road games left.