Stars host Canucks in battle of former division rivals

DALLAS — The Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars used to be Pacific Division bunkmates. And even though they are now in separate divisions, battles between these former division rivals are always spirited affairs.

Vancouver and Dallas last met on Nov. 13 at Rogers Arena with the Canucks taking the full two points thanks to a 5-4 overtime win.

That victory is one of just four Vancouver (8-10-2) has had this month, along with seven losses. But the Canucks, who are 2-6-1 on the road, got their second road victory of the season Tuesday night in Glendale, a 4-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes.

And after such a strong performance in their second win of the month against Arizona, the Canucks like their chances of coming into American Airlines Center on Friday and leaving with at least a point against the Stars.

“We came out strong in the third, we didn't sit back,” Canucks center Bo Horvat said after Tuesday's win. “We kept the pace going, we kept it on them, and it turned out great for us tonight.”

Horvat's line, which also features Sven Baertschi and Alexandre Burrows, accounted for an impressive eight points in that road win against the Coyotes.

And that performance, along with several other recent strong showings by that trio, has not gone unnoticed by Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, a former Stars assistant.

“I've liked that line for three or four games,” Desjardins said. “I think (Burrows) helps them. He talks to them a lot, helps them prepare for shifts. And the other two guys have lots of talent.”

The Canucks currently have a minus-17 goal differential, making them one of only two teams in the Western Conference who currently have a worse differential than the Stars, who are minus-16.

Dallas (8-8-5) is 5-7-1 in November and on Wednesday night the Stars lost 5-2 to the Nashville Predators in the Music City.

At home, the Stars are 5-3-2 this season, including going 2-1-1 during a recently-concluded four-game homestand earlier this week.

Despite seeing his team lose to a Central Division foe by three goals, Stars coach Lindy Ruff saw plenty of positives to take from their loss in Nashville.

“You build off a lot of the good stuff you did in the game — and there was a lot of good stuff in the game,” Ruff said postgame. “Our energy was good. I thought the second period on where our breakouts were coming on our own end was good; cleaned up a few mistakes.”

Dallas has gotten at least a point in 11 straight games against Vancouver and the Stars have defeated the Canucks six straight times in Dallas.

And if the Stars are to extend their run of recent dominance over the Canucks, then they must play better in the third period than they did in Nashville.

Dallas hit the ice on Wednesday down 2-0 to the Predators, but cut that lead in half when Patrick Sharp scored his first goal of the season 5:32 into the final frame.

However, Nashville regained its two-goal edge 37 seconds later and went up 4-2 with another goal five minutes later.

Sharp speaks for his teammates in saying that if Dallas is to climb out of the middle of the pack in the Central and in the West, better third periods need to become a regular thing.

“Yeah, disappointing third period,” Sharp said. “We kind of put ourselves in a good spot there on the road trailing by one against a tough team. It's not a bad spot to be in, but a couple of mistakes ended up being the difference in the game.”