Canucks-Stars Preview

The Associated Press

The Vancouver Canucks are playing their best hockey of the season, even with a setback the last time they took the ice.

They will look to keep the momentum going when they visit the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

The Canucks (20-10-6) saw their seven-game win streak come to an end Tuesday night, but they still managed to earn a point in a 3-2 shootout loss at Minnesota. Vancouver has accumulated at least one point in 10 of its last 11 games (8-1-2), thanks in large part to the play of Roberto Luongo. He has been in net for nine of those 11 contests, registering a 1.88 goals-against average.

Vancouver has also been strong offensively, averaging 3.6 goals in the eight wins over that span. The Canucks, though, have struggled in shootouts, and Tuesday's loss was their fourth in five such situations this season.

"We stink in the shootout. Yeah, we do," coach John Tortorella said. "We've got to try different people I guess because we stink at it."

Mike Santorelli, Chris Higgins and Ryan Kesler all failed to convert in the shootout against the Wild. Vancouver has scored two shootout goals in 18 attempts, an 11.1 percentage that is one of the lowest in the league.

The Canucks had plenty of chances to score when they faced the visiting Stars (16-12-5) on Nov. 17, but they lost 2-1 as Kari Lehtonen stopped 42 shots.

The Stars have been up-and-down of late, and they do not have back-to-back wins since they registered a season high-tying three in a row with last month's victory over the Canucks. They could do that again in this game after beating Colorado 3-2 on Tuesday night.

The good news, outside of earning two points, was that Dallas finally got something from Ray Whitney. A veteran winger who tends to provide more leadership than statistical production, Whitney scored two goals to end a 13-game drought and help Dallas win for the second time in three contests.

"It's always nice to score when you've been dry for a while," Whitney, who had one goal in his first 27 games, told the team's official website. "Confidence is a big part of this game, and it's nice to get that out of the way. Hopefully that will be it for that for the rest of the year."

Whitney's power-play goal in the second period was the Stars' second in 51 chances on their own ice this season. Their 3.9 power-play percentage at home is easily the worst in the NHL.

Lehtonen rested against Colorado after going 2-5-3 with a 3.62 GAA over his last 10 starts. Dan Ellis filled in and made 25 saves, including several late in the game when the Avalanche were on a power play.

The Stars allowed just one power-play goal despite being short-handed six times.

"Their goalie made some great saves," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said.

Dallas has won three of the past four meetings against the Canucks following a 3-10-1 stretch in the series.

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