Kesler, Canucks visit Stars
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Vancouver Canucks opted to hold on to center Ryan Kesler for a possible run at the playoffs and the struggling club tries to avoid a fourth straight setback on Thursday night when it visits the Dallas Stars.
The Canucks figured to be active prior to Wednesday's trade deadline, getting a jump on things the previous day when they dealt goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers for netminder Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias.
Kesler's name was heavy in the rumor cycle going into the deadline, but no deal was done and the 29-year-old can now focus on trying to get the Canucks back into a playoff spot. They are currently two points behind the Stars for the second wild card position in the Western Conference thanks to losses in 10 of their past 11 games.
Kesler leads the Canucks with 21 goals and is third on the club with 39 points, one back of both Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
Daniel Sedin, though, is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury, further hindering an offense that has scored just eight goals in the previous eight games.
Vancouver failed to light the lamp on Tuesday versus the Phoenix Coyotes, falling 1-0.
Eddie Lack, the Canucks' clear No. 1 goaltender with Luongo dealt, stopped 31 shots.
"We just couldn't get that last push and it's just been that way for the last month or so," said Lack. "These games are important and we need to start putting together some wins real quick."
The 26-year-old rookie is 9-10-4 in 26 games this season, but with a solid 2.05 goals against average and .926 save percentage along with three shutouts. Lack has never started versus the Stars, but did face them in relief on Dec. 19 and stopped all seven shots faced in 17 1/2 minutes of action.
The Stars have won both of their meetings with the Canucks this season, taking three in a row and six of the last nine encounters overall.
Dallas, just one point ahead of both Phoenix and the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card berth, failed to earn a point for just the second time in its last nine games (5-2-2) when it lost a 4-2 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
Coming off a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres the previous night, the Stars got goals from Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley as well as 16 saves by backup netminder Dan Ellis.
Ellis was making his first appearance since Feb. 1 and it turned out to be his last with the Stars as he was dealt to Florida for goaltender Tim Thomas, who became expendable when the Panthers acquired Luongo.
Thomas will help lessen the load for Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen and provide veteran insurance in the crease after going 16-20-3 with a 2.87 GAA in 40 games for the Panthers.
"We've liked how he's played. He's played very well. He's experienced," Dallas general manager Jim Nill told his team's website of Thomas. "I think it is going to be good for Kari Lehtonen to see a guy, how he prepares, how he handles pressure. Kari is kind of growing into this role. It's Kari's team still, but when we have back-to-back games or four games in six nights, he knows there is somebody that can go into the net and the team is going to continue to win. That's very important."
Lehtonen figures to get the start tonight and is 5-7-0 with a 2.92 GAA lifetime versus the Canucks.