The holiday season has been very good to the Vancouver Canucks. They’d like to close the month with a new franchise record.
In a matchup of division leaders meeting for the first time in 2010-11, the surging Canucks look for their 11th win in December on Friday night against the Dallas Stars, who are trying to avoid their longest home losing streak in nearly two years.
The Canucks dropped to 10-7-3 after their season-high fourth consecutive loss, 3-2 to Phoenix on Nov. 21. At the time, Vancouver trailed Colorado by two points for the Northwest Division lead, and was tied with Anaheim for eighth in the Western Conference.
The club has been nearly unbeatable since then, going 12-1-2 overall and 5-0-1 on the road to move atop the division. The Canucks are three points behind conference-leading Detroit.
Vancouver is in search of its fourth straight win after beating Philadelphia 6-2 on Tuesday. Ryan Kesler(notes) had two goals and an assist for the Canucks, winners of a club-record 10 December games for the second straight year.
“He’s a force for us,” goaltender Roberto Luongo(notes) said of Kesler, who has four goals in his last five games in Dallas. “Not only offensively, but he takes some big draws, he’s playing the (penalty kill), he’s doing it all. It’s nice to have a guy like that on your team.”
Kesler leads the Canucks with 10 goals over the last 15 games. He has 19 in 35 games this season after scoring 25 in 82 in 2009-10.
With Luongo in Florida awaiting the birth of a son, Cory Schneider(notes) will start in goal for the Canucks (22-8-5). Schneider, who is 5-0-2 with a 2.56 goals-against average in nine games, made 45 saves while losing his only career start against the Stars in November 2009.
The Canucks took three of four from the Stars last season, but have alternated losses and wins in their last six visits to Dallas (22-12-4).
The Stars have dropped three straight at home - their longest since a six-game slide Feb. 21-March 8, 2009 - following a meltdown against the Red Wings on Wednesday. Trailing 1-0, Dallas scored three times in a 1:14 span of the second period, but then allowed six straight goals in the 7-3 defeat.
“We worked hard for two periods and put ourselves in position to win a game. … We just didn’t execute. We got a little too aggressive, took some penalties, over-pursued on some plays and had blown coverage,” said Brad Richards(notes), who scored his team-high 17th goal.
A backup with the Canucks last season, Raycroft is 7-3-0 with a 2.33 GAA and one shutout. He has won his last three starts, but hasn’t played in Dallas since beating Carolina 2-1 on Dec. 10.