Canucks-Stars Preview

After letting one team pass them in the Western Conference standings, the Vancouver Canucks will face another that is ahead of them in the race for a playoff spot.

The Dallas Stars have taken the first two meetings this season with the Canucks, who may be debuting new goaltender Jacob Markstrom on Thursday night.

Dallas (29-23-10) holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the West while Vancouver (28-26-10) is two points back in 11th place, although it has played two more games.

The Canucks lost 1-0 at Phoenix on Tuesday to fall one point behind the Coyotes.

Roberto Luongo was originally slated to start in goal before he was dealt to Florida before the game in a trade that brought Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias to the Canucks.

Eddie Lack made his fourth straight start, but coach John Tortorella has not announced who will get the nod Thursday. Markstrom went 1-6-3 with a 3.52 goals-against average this season with the Panthers.

"For me, I think this was the best thing that could happen so I’m really excited," Markstrom said.

While the Luongo trade was huge news, it was also noteworthy that Ryan Kesler remained with Vancouver past Wednesday’s trade deadline even though there were rumors he was on his way out.

"You hear stuff, Eddie Lack came up to me and told me I was traded to Pittsburgh so I’m probably going to shoot at his head for the rest of the year from here on out but I’m happy I’m still here," Kesler said.

Kesler leads the team with 21 goals, and his coach was happy to still have him.

"Ryan Kesler has been our most consistent and hardest-working player from day one," Tortorella said. "Even through all the stuff going on, through this, a number of different things, he plays hard. I don’t have to say a word to him."

The Canucks remain without Daniel Sedin, who is out with a lower-body injury. Henrik Sedin has gone 10 games in a row without a point while the club has lost 10 straight games that Kesler has played.

Vancouver is averaging 2.30 goals overall and a league-worst 1.72 since Dec. 17.

"We have to score, that’s the biggest thing," Kesler said. "Our team can’t score, it’s no secret, I think we average a goal and a half a game over the past couple months."

Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen bested Luongo in both meetings this season. Lack and Markstrom have never started against the Stars.

Dallas is beginning a three-game homestand after Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Columbus. The Stars fell behind 3-0 after one period and did not score in the second despite enjoying a 12-1 advantage in shots on goal.

”Sometimes you are going to get hit with some adversity,” coach Lindy Ruff said. ”We were knocking on the door and we had a couple of good opportunities.”

Alex Goligoski scored for the second straight game and fellow defenseman Trevor Daley had the other goal.

Erik Cole has a team-high four points in the season series for Dallas.

The Stars traded goalie Dan Ellis to Florida on Wednesday for Tim Thomas, who will back up Lehtonen.