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Mar 28, 2024 1:58 am

Canucks, Stars face off, vie for West supremacy

Jason Robertson

The Western Conference’s two division leaders go head to head when the Vancouver Canucks play host to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

While the Pacific-leading Canucks (45-19-8, 98 points) have an eight-point edge in their quest for a division banner, the Stars (45-19-9, 99 points) are in a double dogfight.

As they continue a four-game road swing, the Stars are just one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the top spot in the Central. Plus, Dallas is among seven teams — including the Canucks — in the hunt for the Presidents’ Trophy as the top regular-season club.

The Stars arrive in Vancouver riding a five-game winning streak after routing the San Jose Sharks 6-3 on Tuesday.

“Everyone’s really churning right now and contributing and playing the right way, and not deviating from what works and what we want to do,” said forward Jason Robertson, who collected a pair of goals in San Jose. “So it’s encouraging to see, and I think it’s contagious.”

The Stars, who lead the NHL with an average of 3.72 goals per game, boast a litany of players racking up the offense. Wyatt Johnston collected two goals and an assist against the Sharks, while Mason Marchment scored his 20th goal, the seventh player on the team to reach that mark this season.

“Now is the time of year where there’s not much more fine-tuning you can do,” said Dallas captain Jamie Benn, who has scored goals in five consecutive games and racked up 10 points in a seven-game streak. “You’ve got to be on top of your game and feeling good going into the playoffs. We’ve got (nine) more here to keep it solid.”

The Canucks are back in action after a 3-2 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Kings on Monday, but that defeat is not impacting any confidence.

Vancouver had won three straight and gone 7-1-1 heading into the game. Falling shy in a tight-checking clash between a pair of clubs headed into the Stanley Cup playoffs is more a reminder of what is ahead for a team that can clinch a playoff spot with a victory. (The Stars also would punch a ticket to the playoffs with a win.)

“We knew it was going to be like a playoff game and we battled, but yeah, frustrating,” said forward Sam Lafferty, who snapped a 12-game drought when he scored against Los Angeles. “(The Kings) are a great team. We know what to expect, and pretty much every game from here on out is going to be like that, so I think we’re gearing up. We’re trending in the right direction. It just wasn’t our night.”

Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet called the loss a “coin-flip” game for good reason. Both teams were strong on defense, combining for just 42 shots on goal.

“We’ve been at the top of the league the whole year, and this is a time we can take pride in that, but we’re certainly not satisfied,” Canucks forward J.T. Miller said. “It’s more of a game-to-game process for us. I don’t love losing games, but when other teams are banging their sticks when that last puck is cleared out, they knew they just beat a good hockey team, and that says a lot.”

There was no word on whether Vancouver center Elias Lindholm would return after missing the Monday game due to an undisclosed injury.

–Field Level Media

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