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Canucks look to extend Western lead against Stars

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The Sports Network
2/26/2012 11:32:29 AM
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(Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks will try to extend their lead atop the Western Conference today, as they visit the Dallas Stars for an afternoon battle at American Airlines Center.

The Canucks claimed the No. 1 seed in the West and the top overall spot in the NHL by one point over Detroit thanks to Friday's win at New Jersey. Prior to beating the Devils, Vancouver ended the Red Wings' NHL-record home winning streak on Thursday with a 4-3 shootout victory in the Motor City. Detroit is not in action today.

Vancouver also holds a comfortable lead in the Northwest Division, as they lead Colorado by 18 points.

Meanwhile, Dallas is fighting for its playoff lives and is currently locked in a three-way tie for the eighth seed in the West with Los Angeles and Colorado. Neither the Kings nor the Avalanche are playing today.

This afternoon's battle is the first of four scheduled meetings between the Stars and Canucks this season. Vancouver won all four encounters in 2010-11 and has taken six straight and nine of 10 in this series overall. The Canucks have also come out on top in three straight and four of their last five tilts in Dallas. The Stars and Canucks will meet three times next month to complete the season series.

The Canucks have posted a 3-1 record so far on a six-game road trip and have compiled a superb 12-1-3 mark over their last 16 games overall.

Vancouver posted a 2-1 regulation victory over the Devils on Friday, as backup goaltender Cory Schneider made 30 saves, including stopping all 10 shots he faced in the final period. No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo is expected to return to the crease today.

Aaron Rome and Mason Raymond scored for the Canucks, who have won two in a row since Tuesday's regulation loss in Nashville.

"We found a way to win, we blocked a lot of shots," Rome said after the win in New Jersey. "We kept them to the outside for the most part and got good goaltending."

The Canucks are sporting an NHL-best 22-10-2 road record this season and will complete this swing Tuesday in Phoenix.

The Stars enter today on a three-game winning streak and have just one regulation loss over their last six contests (4-1-1).

Dallas began a three-game homestand Friday against Minnesota and the Stars notched a 4-1 victory over the Wild. Tom Wandell scored twice to help the Stars reach a franchise milestone, as they became the 10th franchise in NHL history to record 1,500 wins. Over half of those victories (758) took place when the club was known as the Minnesota North Stars.

Kari Lehtonen made 28 saves to backstop Dallas to the win, while Loui Eriksson and Eric Nystrom also tallied goals for the Stars.

"It's encouraging," Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said about his team's balanced attack. "Going down the stretch, if you're getting contributions from everybody then everybody gets more confidence."

The Stars, who are 17-12-2 as the host this year, will complete this residency when they welcome Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Dallas forward Jamie Benn is expected to miss his sixth straight game today with a lacerated left leg. Benn, who was selected to his first All-Star Game this year, is second on the team this season with 49 points on 17 goals and 32 assists.

Burrows and Sedin (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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