Stars eye first place in clash with Canucks

The Dallas Stars will try to regain sole possession of the top spot in the Pacific Division this evening, when they visit the playoff- bound Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.

Dallas enters today tied with Phoenix for the Pacific lead after the Coyotes posted a 2-0 win over San Jose on Thursday. The Stars and Coyotes are just one point ahead of Los Angeles and San Jose for the division lead. The Kings play tonight in Edmonton, while the Coyotes and Sharks are idle.

The Canucks, meanwhile, clinched their fourth straight Northwest Division title on Saturday and can finish no lower than second in the Western Conference. Vancouver is three points behind St. Louis for the conference's top seed with five games remaining in the regular season for the Canucks and four for the Blues.

The Stars won the first two of four meetings with Vancouver this season, but the Canucks posted a 2-1 regulation win in Dallas on March 22. The Canucks have claimed seven of nine in this series overall and Dallas has lost in eight of its last 11 trips to British Columbia.

Dallas has struggled since beginning March on a six-game winning streak, posting a 3-4-0 record over its last seven trips to the ice. The Stars were able to win for the third time in five games when they posted a victory in Edmonton on Wednesday.

Michael Ryder posted two goals and an assist as the Stars took a 3-1 decision at Rexall Place. Ryder has a career-high 35 goals this season, and with 62 points he is just one shy of tying his personal best in that category as well. Ryder's career mark of 63 points came during his rookie season with Montreal back in 2003-04.

Mike Ribeiro posted a goal and two assists while Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves for the Stars.

"The last couple of games we let the other team play their game," said Ryder. "Tonight we were able to turn the tables a little and we were able to stick to our game plan."

The Stars, who are 20-16-2 on the road this year, are playing the third test of a four-game road trip tonight. Dallas will complete the swing on Saturday when it visits San Jose for the opener of an important home-and-home series.

Vancouver has won four straight games and can tie a season-high winning streak with another victory tonight. The Canucks won five in a row from Nov. 20-29 and have won four in a row on three separate occasions since that streak.

The Canucks have recorded 1-0 victories in each of their last two games. Roberto Luongo made 38 saves to blank the Los Angeles Kings on Monday and Cory Schneider posted 43 saves to lead Vancouver to Wednesday's win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Chris Higgins scored the only goal of Wednesday's game off an assist from Samuel Pahlsson.

"It's gonna be tight games, especially when we get into the playoffs," said Pahlsson. "It's a good thing to know we can win the tight games like this, it's a strength of our team."

Tonight's test marks the third test of a five-game homestand for the Canucks, who are 23-10-4 at home this season.

Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin will miss a fifth straight game with a concussion tonight, while Stars forwards Radek Dvorak (ankle) and Eric Nystrom (lacerated leg) are questionable.