Stars vs. Canucks Preview

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VANCOUVER, B.C. (AP) - This month, the slumping Dallas Stars have gone from having a comfortable division lead to just fighting for a playoff spot. Losing six straight on the road hasn't helped, and a trip to Vancouver on Saturday night won't be an easy way to cure their woes.

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The Canucks, looking to break out of their own minor funk, will be trying to complete a season sweep of the Stars for the first time in the 40-year history of this series.

Dallas has lost its last four visits to Vancouver, which is 11-1-3 in its last 15 home games overall.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Canucks -197 money line favorites for Saturday's game against the Stars. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 80% of more than 178 bets for this game have been placed on the Canucks -197.

The Canucks (37-13-9) remain atop the Western Conference despite losing for the third time in five games Thursday night, 3-1 in Nashville.

Roberto Luongo made 23 saves but lost his second straight start in regulation after going 16-0-5 from Dec. 8-Feb. 12.

"We should be happy with the way we played," said Daniel Sedin, who scored Vancouver's only goal. "We're not happy we lost, but if we play like this on the road we should get our share of wins."

Earning victories against Dallas this season has seemed to come easy. The Canucks have won all three meetings while outscoring the Stars 15-3, putting themselves in position for their first season sweep in a series which dates back to 1970-71.

Vancouver is 8 for 15 on the power play in this season's three matchups while Dallas has gone 1 for 13.

"All three games, our special teams have played awesome, with big goals at key moments and the penalty killers have been doing the job," Canucks winger Alex Burrows said after the last meeting, a 4-1 win in Dallas on Feb. 1. "For some reason it seems to work against them."

That most recent matchup began a downward spiral for the Stars (31-21-6), who entered this month with a five-point lead atop the Pacific. They have gone 1-6-1 in February to fall into a tie for last place, though they're within three points of division-leading Phoenix.

Dallas lost a season-high sixth consecutive road game Wednesday, 4-2 to Calgary. Kari Lehtonen had 27 saves but allowed a crucial shorthanded goal which sealed the game for the Flames.

"It's tough," defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "I'm not going to lie to you, but we can't focus too much on the standings and what's going on. We have to find our game and get back to the team that we were early in the year."

Dallas has been without leading scorer Brad Richards for its three-game road trip and he will miss Saturday's finale. Richards was hit in the jaw during the final shift of Sunday's game against Columbus and will be re-evaluated when the Stars return home.

The Canucks' top scorers have keyed the team's success in this season series, with Daniel and Henrik Sedin each contributing six points. Daniel has 11 points in the last seven meetings, and Henrik has 16 in the last 11.

Luongo is 10-0-2 with a 1.87 goals-against average in his last 12 starts against the Stars. Backup Cory Schneider started the last two meetings, allowing one goal in each.

The goaltending for Dallas hasn't been nearly as good.

Lehtonen was pulled in two of the three starts against the Canucks is 1-5-0 with a 4.16 GAA in six starts against them. He has a 3.25 GAA this month.

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