Stars-Canucks Preview

This month, the slumping Dallas Stars have gone from having a

comfortable division lead to just fighting for a playoff spot.

Losing six straight on the road hasn’t helped, and a trip to

Vancouver on Saturday night won’t be an easy way to cure their

woes.

The Canucks, looking to break out of their own minor funk, will

be trying to complete a season sweep of the Stars for the first

time in the 40-year history of this series.

Dallas has lost its last four visits to Vancouver, which is

11-1-3 in its last 15 home games overall.

The Canucks (37-13-9) remain atop the Western Conference despite

losing for the third time in five games Thursday night, 3-1 in

Nashville.

Roberto Luongo made 23 saves but lost his second straight start

in regulation after going 16-0-5 from Dec. 8-Feb. 12.

“We should be happy with the way we played,” said Daniel Sedin,

who scored Vancouver’s only goal. “We’re not happy we lost, but if

we play like this on the road we should get our share of wins.”

Earning victories against Dallas this season has seemed to come

easy. The Canucks have won all three meetings while outscoring the

Stars 15-3, putting themselves in position for their first season

sweep in a series which dates back to 1970-71.

Vancouver is 8 for 15 on the power play in this season’s three

matchups while Dallas has gone 1 for 13.

“All three games, our special teams have played awesome, with

big goals at key moments and the penalty killers have been doing

the job,” Canucks winger Alex Burrows said after the last meeting,

a 4-1 win in Dallas on Feb. 1. “For some reason it seems to work

against them.”

That most recent matchup began a downward spiral for the Stars

(31-21-6), who entered this month with a five-point lead atop the

Pacific. They have gone 1-6-1 in February to fall into a tie for

last place, though they’re within three points of division-leading

Phoenix.

Dallas lost a season-high sixth consecutive road game Wednesday,

4-2 to Calgary. Kari Lehtonen had 27 saves but allowed a crucial

shorthanded goal which sealed the game for the Flames.

“It’s tough,” defenseman Stephane Robidas said. “I’m not going

to lie to you, but we can’t focus too much on the standings and

what’s going on. We have to find our game and get back to the team

that we were early in the year.”

Dallas has been without leading scorer Brad Richards for its

three-game road trip and he will miss Saturday’s finale. Richards

was hit in the jaw during the final shift of Sunday’s game against

Columbus and will be re-evaluated when the Stars return home.

The Canucks’ top scorers have keyed the team’s success in this

season series, with Daniel and Henrik Sedin each contributing six

points. Daniel has 11 points in the last seven meetings, and Henrik

has 16 in the last 11.

Luongo is 10-0-2 with a 1.87 goals-against average in his last

12 starts against the Stars. Backup Cory Schneider started the last

two meetings, allowing one goal in each.

The goaltending for Dallas hasn’t been nearly as good.

Lehtonen was pulled in two of the three starts against the

Canucks is 1-5-0 with a 4.16 GAA in six starts against them. He has

a 3.25 GAA this month.