Dallas Stars (42-30-5, 89 pts) @ Vancouver Canucks (47-21-9, 103 pts)
9:00 PM CT, March 30, 2012
Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Here we are, one week left in the season and the most critical stretch of games still to come. The Stars are still clinging to their Pacific Division lead (and playoff spot) only due to tiebreakers now. Only one point separates them from ninth in the West.
With all that in mind, Dallas plays the Vancouver Canucks tonight in the first game of their toughest back-to-back all season (it concludes tomorrow against the San Jose Sharks). The game today isn't as important as what comes tomorrow and Tuesday, but it's still one with enormous implications. The game tonight will be the last one that Dallas has in hand over Phoenix and San Jose. All the Pacific Division playoff hunting teams will have played 78 games after tonight.
Dallas is coming off of a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. The top line of Michael Ryder, Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro showed up big in that game as they combined for eight points and Kari Lehtonen did what he's done all season, make huge saves. All of those guys will have to show up big again tonight if the Stars want to win tonight and have a lot of momentum going into tomorrow. Dallas has done well against the Canucks this season, winning two of the three games so far and playing tough in all of them.
To win this game, Dallas has to play smart, physical and controlled. The physical play will be there tonight. Dallas has outhit the Canucks 94-73. It's the playing smart and controlled that will make the difference tonight. In the last game between these two teams, the Stars got caught up in the after-the-whistle stuff. They were throwing some extra punches, getting gloves into faces and doing some extra shoving that only detracted from their game.
They didn't concentrate enough on just playing the game and it led to nine penalties and 21 penalty minutes. All it did was keep key guys off the ice (Ribeiro and Ryder took two penalties each) and halted momentum for the team. Tempers might still be flaring from that last matchup so the Stars just need to play hockey. Let the game take care of itself and let the scoreboard do the talking.
Kari Lehtonen gets the start tonight and it looks like for the rest of the games this season. He's 1-1-0 against Vancouver this season stopping 50 of 54 shots. He did poorly in the last game, allowing two very soft goals but I would Kari to be his usual self today.
Dallas is without three guys: Mark Fistric (abdominal), Eric Nystrom (leg laceration) and Radek Dvorak (ankle).
Notes and thoughts:
- Dallas is 20-16-2 on the road this year.
- The top line has been big in the two wins this season and did nothing in the loss. They need to show up tonight. Ryder has three points (one goal, two assists), Ribeiro has five points (three goals, two assists) and Eriksson has four points (two goals, two asissts) in the season series.
- The power play. Gully really needs to change up the power play. It's too ugly to even watch it right now. It went 0 of 5 in against the Oilers and was actually outchanced by the Oilers penalty kill.
- I would like to see Reilly Smith get some more time on ice. He had a pretty good game in his debut and looked lively. He needs to get moved up with Jamie Benn in place of Adam Burish. Benn needs some scoring wingers with him. He's doing too much on his own and even as good as he is, needs some help.
more after the jump
The Canucks are back on track. They've won four straight games (including that previous Dallas game) through one thing, tough defense. Vancouver has only allowed three goals in the past four games and is coming off back-to-back 1-0 shutouts. Cory Schneider was amazing in their last game, stopping 43 of 43 shots in their win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Vancouver still has a lot to play for as they are only three points behind the St. Louis Blues for the conference lead. There will be no let up tonight from them.
Dallas gets a little break tonight though as Roberto Luongo will probably be the starter tonight. He was the loser in both of the Canucks losses to the Stars this season, allowing 7 goals on 56 shots and looking perplexed at times. His last game was a 1-0 shutout against the LA Kings though so he does have some confidence coming into tonight. Dallas needs to take that away quickly tonight and get a quick on by him.
Daniel Sedin is also out for this game with a concussion, but that might not be good for Dallas. He was a player in both of the losses and he and his brother tallied no points. With him out last game, Henrik finally made an impact and assisted on both of Vancouver's goals. Henrik is able to concentrate on his own game now and it hurt Dallas. Shut down the passing lanes tonight and keep an eye on the backdoor cutter. Henrik makes a killing on those types of passes.
Besides Sedin, the Canucks are without defensemen Aaron Rome (knee) and Keith Ballard (concussion) as well as forwards Andrew Ebbett (collarbone) and Aaron Volpatti (shoulder).
Notes and thoughts:
- It's been all defense for the Canucks lately. Dallas has to score and take advantage of Luongo.
- Henrik hasn't been effective lately besides that game against Dallas. He only has seven points (all assists) this entire month. Don't let him finally get going again.
- The guy to watch out for? Chris Higgins. He has three goals in the past three games and is the season series leader in points for Vancouver with a goal and three assists.
- Feb. 26 @ American Airlines Center: Dallas 3 - Vancouver 2 (OT)
- March 6 @ Rogers Arena: Dallas 5 - Vancouver 2
- March 22 @ American Airlines Center: Dallas 1 - Vancouver 2
Dallas Vancouver Goals per game 3
2 Shots per game 27.6 28.3 Hits per game 31.3 24.3
PIM per game 11
11 Power Play 2 of 9 (22%) 0 of 9
Penalty Kill 9 of 9
7 of 9 (78%)
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