April 18 2013 02:47PM
Keep your head on a swivel when Aaron Rome is on the ice!
Photograph by: Rich Lam/Getty Images North America
The Stars and Canucks will meet for the third time this season in Dallas on Thursday night, and what a season series it has been. The two clubs have combined to score fourteen goals in their previous two contests, and both games were thoroughly memorable and entertaining. Not coincidentally, both games also featured a Canucks lineup that included Ryan Kesler...
The Dallas Stars are fighting for their playoff lives as they currently sit four points out of eighth in the West with two games in hand over the Bluejackets. They've been hot of late, and have Kari Lehtonen back and playing well - Lehtonen played less than a period in Vancouver's first two games against the Stars this season - so they're not a pushover.
Read past the jump for more.
Puck Drop: 5:30 PM PST
Television: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: The Team 1040
The Canucks have sent Kevin Bieksa home to Vancouver, although he's still listed as "day-to-day" with an injury that Alain Vigneault insists isn't located in his groin. Meanwhile the team got some good news on the David Booth and Chris Higgins injury fronts and bad news on the Chris Tanev injury front, but we'll update that news at length in a subsequent post.
So Bieksa is still out and otherwise the Canucks will roll with much the same roster they rolled out against the Blues on Tuesday. That means that Cam Barker will play a lot and Andrew Ebbett remains the club's third-line centre. Meanwhile I'd expect a loaded second line of Hansen, Roy and Kesler to play close to twenty minutes against the Stars...
The Stars are secretly a pretty good team, and in particular have a quality third line including Erik Cole, Vernon Fiddler and Eric Nystrom that I could see giving the Canucks fits on Thursday night. I'd expect that the Fiddler group will battle the twins, a matchup which Vancouver should win. On the other hand, Loui Eriksson is skating with a couple of marginal NHLers in Fraser and Chiasson. I could see that line getting dummied a bit if Vigneault can get Kesler's group out against them, though I could also see them taking advantage of the Ebbett, Raymond, Kassian line which is probably who they'll match up against with Kesler's group drawing the Benn matchup primarily.
On the backend Dallas relies heavily on Brenden Dillon, who is absurdly good, Stephane Robidas and Alex Goligoski. Those three are fast and reliable, and with all of the blueline prospect depth Dallas added at the trade deadline (Morrow, Gaunce, Connauton) I could see this Stars team having an elite defense-corps in a couple of years.
In goal the Stars will start Lehtonen tonight while the Canucks will give Cory Schneider the nod. Frankly I'm expecting a relatively fast paced affair in Dallas on Thursday night, so hopefully Vigneault let's that happen since we know Gulutzan, whose team should be preoccupied with ROWs, will be going for the win.