Canucks-Stars Preview

The Associated Press

The Vancouver Canucks came up short in their last game, but they're still in position to win a fifth consecutive Northwest Division title.

The Dallas Stars still control their playoff fate following a defeat, but they don't have much room for error.

Vancouver will try to extend its point streak in Dallas to seven Thursday night when the Stars go for a season-best third straight home win with Kari Lehtonen back in net.

Playing their third game in four days, the Canucks (24-12-7) fell to 2-1-1 on their five-game trip with Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss to St. Louis. It was Vancouver's fewest goals in eight games.

"It was exactly what I think everybody expected, a tough game, a hard-fought game," coach Alain Vigneault said. "St. Louis came real hard at us and I thought for the most part we responded the way we were supposed to."

The Canucks, up four points on second-place Minnesota in the division, will now try to respond in Dallas, where they are 5-0-1 in six visits following a 4-3 victory Feb. 21. Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows, Jason Garrison and Henrik Sedin scored against Cristopher Nilstorp, who was starting in place of Lehtonen after the veteran suffered a groin injury six days earlier in a 4-3 win at Vancouver.

Vancouver will get its second look at Lehtonen this season after Stars coach Glen Gulutzan announced Wednesday that he would start after missing three games with a lower-body injury.

Richard Bachman, who started the three games after Lehtonen was injured against Los Angeles on April 9, will serve as a backup now with Nilstorp getting sent down to AHL Texas on Tuesday.

"Hopefully it was good to get all that time off," said Lehtonen, 0-3-0 with a 3.85 goals-against average in his last five home starts. "We have a few games left here, so I'm even more excited now to play. We're in a good spot and trying to climb into the playoffs."

The Stars (21-18-3) trail Detroit and Columbus, who are fighting for the eighth spot in the Western Conference, but they face both clubs to end the season and currently hold the tiebreakers.

"Obviously you'd like to be in front and have someone chase us, but that's not the case," said Gulutzan, whose team's season-best five-game winning streak ended with Monday's 5-2 loss at Chicago. "But we still control everything."

Securing their first playoff berth since 2008 could be more challenging for the Stars if Alex Chiasson is out for any extended period. The team leader with six goals since making his NHL debut April 3, Chiasson left Monday's game in the first period with a shoulder injury.

"They had a look at his shoulder and they think it may be a sprain, so he's going to be a day-to-day guy," Gulutzan said.

Dallas could also be without defenseman Trevor Daley after he missed Wednesday's practice with an upper-body injury.

It's uncertain if the Stars will face Cory Schneider for a third time this season or if Roberto Luongo will get a chance to win a third consecutive start. Luongo is 3-0-3 with a 2.09 GAA in his last six starts in Dallas.

Sedin, the Canucks' leader with six assists on the trip, has four goals and eight assists in the last eight games visiting the Stars.

Dallas' last three-game home winning streak was a 4-0-0 run to open last season.

What to Read Next