While the Vancouver Canucks are battling for the top spot in the Western Conference, the Dallas Stars are seeking one of the final playoff berths.
These teams will get well acquainted with four meetings over the next five weeks, beginning with Sunday’s matchup in Dallas.
Who: Vacouver Canucks vs. Dallas Stars
When: 3:00 PM ET, February 26, 2012
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
Oddsmakers currently have the Stars listed as 225-moneyline favorites versus the Canucks, while the game’s total is sitting at 5.
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Vancouver (40-16-6) has won six straight over Dallas (32-26-4) heading into the season series opener. The Sedin brothers have combined for 23 points in that span, and Henrik has amassed 19 during a 10-game streak against the Stars while Daniel has 14 in an eight-game run.
The clubs also play three times in March, and more matchups could come in the first round of the playoffs considering they’re at opposite ends of the West playoff picture. Vancouver is in a tight chase with Detroit for the top spot and Dallas is part of a close race for eighth place.
The Canucks are 12-1-3 in their last 16, including 3-1-0 to start this six-game trip. The Stars, meanwhile, are seeking their first four-game win streak since Oct. 29-Nov. 8.
Kari Lehtonen is 1-5-0 with a 4.16 goals-against average in six career starts against Vancouver but has played well lately. He’s allowed one goal over his last two starts and won both, making 28 saves in Friday’s 4-1 home victory over Minnesota.
“We’ve been talking about that for a month now, wanting to get some wins put together and now we’re finally doing it,” said Lehtonen, 3-1-1 with a 1.59 GAA in his past five games. “It’s just an interesting time of the year, with every game so important and we’re having fun, so hopefully, we can keep it going.”
The Stars will play again without All-Star winger Jamie Benn, who has missed the last five games with a leg injury. Loui Eriksson has five points in that span to pass Benn for the team lead with 53.
“It’s always good to have everyone going and I thought every line has been playing really well the last couple of games here, so we just have to keep going,” Eriksson said after scoring his 20th goal Friday.
Vancouver no doubt welcomed Saturday as an off day after grueling wins the previous two nights. After ending Detroit’s NHL-record 23-game home win streak with a 4-3 shootout victory Thursday, the Canucks were outshot 31-16 in Friday’s 2-1 road victory over a New Jersey team which had won nine of 11.
“This was five games in seven nights, and it was not easy to say the least,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We have nothing left in the tank, and we left it all on the ice.”
Vancouver continues to own one of the league’s best power plays at 21.6 percent, although the unit is 4 for 37 over the last 15 games. The Canucks are 9 for 22 in the six-game streak over the Stars.
Vigneault used Roberto Luongo in goal Thursday and Cory Schneider on Friday.
Luongo has won his last eight starts versus the Stars and is 13-4-2 with a 2.00 GAA lifetime against them. Schneider is 2-1-0 with a 1.35 GAA in three starts versus Dallas.
Luongo is 8-1-3 in his last 12 overall with eight of those games going to shootouts — he’s won five. Schneider has won a career-high seven consecutive starts, including six on the road.