NHL: Canucks at Stars Preview

CANUCKS SHOOTING FOR THE STARS: The Canucks are looking to get back on a winning streak against a recently mediocre Stars team.

BY JEFF ANGUS

Vancouver Canucks at Dallas Stars (+120, 5.5)

The Canucks head into Big D tonight looking for some revenge. The Stars, powered by a late third period tally from defenseman Brenden Dillon, surprised the Canucks for a 4-3 victory last Friday night at Rogers Arena. That game marked the first time in over three years (October 2009) that the Canucks lost a game in regulation at home after leading through two periods.

The Canucks are turning to Cory Schneider tonight, while the Stars will counter with Cristopher Nilstorp. Vancouver also shuffled up their defensive pairings a bit, moving Chris Tanev up with Alex Edler. The move allows Edler to return to the left side, where he is much more comfortable. Jason Garrison slides down to the third pairing with Keith Ballard, forming the “overpaid former Florida Panthers defensemen” pairing… for now, at least.

Read on for a few keys to the game for each team. And if you want to get a bit more insight on each team, I’d suggest reading the CanucksArmy for Canucks news and notes, and DefendingBigD for all things related to the Stars.

VANCOUVER WILL WIN IF…

CANUCKS CAPITALIZE ON THEIR CHANCES
During the loss to Dallas last week, they generated a lot offensively but were unable to come away with the victory. Scoring three goals is never a bad thing, especially with a goalie like Cory Schneider in between the pipes. However, the Canucks should have had five or six goals on Dallas backup Richard Bachman, who came in as a replacement for the injured Kari Lehtonen. They need to find a way to get a few past Nilstorp early.

Nilstorp is playing better hockey this season than Bachman – he was sensational in the AHL during the lockout, too. In his two NHL starts this season, Nilstorp is winless with a .918 save percentage and a 2.70 GAA.

Vancouver’s road powerplay is operating at 15% efficiency (compared to 22.2% on home ice). Having Kesler back should bump the PP back up to the top of the league. He has by far the most deadly one-timer on the team, and the fact that he shoots right opens up a lot more ice for the Sedins to work with.

CANUCKS USE THEIR SPEED
Vancouver is a much quicker team in transition than the Stars are. Even without suspended forward Jannik Hansen, the Canucks boast speed on every line, outside of Sedin-Sedin-Burrows. They need to find a way to get in behind the Dallas defense. If they do that consistently, they will be very successful tonight. On that note, look for Ryan Kesler to factor prominently into tonight’s contest.

SCHNEIDER STEPS UP
Schneider wasn’t great in the loss last Friday, allowing a few suspect goals. However, he was sensational in Chicago on Tuesday night, as he was the only reason the Canucks escaped with a point in a 4-3 shootout loss. Schneider stopped three breakaways in the first period alone, and on some pretty good shooters, too. Outside of opening night and the Dallas game, Schneider has been rock solid in goal for the Canucks in 2013.

DALLAS WILL WIN IF…

NILSTORP STANDS ON HIS HEAD
Vancouver is a more talented team than Dallas, and the Stars will need Nilstorp to steal this one tonight if they want to defeat the Canucks for a second straight game. As mentioned above, while his NHL career has been very short, Nilstorp has been a successful goalie at the AHL level and back in Sweden, as well. The Canucks have never faced him, and even with advances in video scouting, he represents a new challenge to their shooters, as they will have to learn his tendencies quite quickly.

STARS SLOW THE GAME DOWN
What Dallas lacks in foot speed they make up for in board play and strength on the puck. Jaromir Jagr and Jamie Benn are two of the strongest forwards in the NHL, and they have been successful this season with generating offense from the boards and behind the net (that is how the Dillon game winner started – Jagr won a puck battle behind the net against Alex Edler).

Dallas also loses some mobility on the back end with the absence of veteran defenseman Trevor Daley. Jordie Benn, the older brother of Jamie, draws in to the lineup. He played a few games for Dallas at the beginning of the season before getting sent down to the AHL.

The defense, outside of Dillon and Stephane Robidas, has been suspect, relying on Kari Lehtonen to bail them out on many occasions this season.

STARS WIN THE SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE
If Dallas can have some success on the man advantage, their chances of winning this game increase significantly (seems obvious, I know). The Stars miss Ray “the Wizard” Whitney and his ability to run the power play, but they still have a number of highly-skilled players who can put the puck in the net.

Dallas is 5-for-20 on the powerplay at home – not a huge sample size, but very efficient nonetheless.

INTERESTING BETS
Alex Burrows to score the first goal (+750)
Burrows is back with the Sedin twins, and the line has really started to roll over the past few games. Look for Burrows to pot one tonight in Dallas.

Vancouver Canucks -1.5 (+188)
Schneider was great last game. Nilstorp has only two games of NHL experience, and the Stars are without Daley, arguably their best (or second best) defenseman. Their defensive group was already thin with Daley in the lineup.

Second Period Goals – Over 1.5 (-150)
The Canucks have allowed 16 second period goals this season. The Stars have allowed 20. The middle stanza has not been kind to either club.