DALLAS — Sunday afternoon’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center is a textbook study in contrasts.
One team, Vancouver (21-28-6, 48 points) has lost four straight, including a 4-1 setback at Carolina on Friday, and the Canucks are currently down five players due to injury.
In Friday’s loss, Vancouver was without forward Brock Boeser (hand), centers Sam Gagner (ankle), Brendan Gaunce (foot) and Markus Granlund (ankle), and defenseman Chris Tanev (lower body).
Boeser is day-to-day and could return for Sunday’s game in Dallas, but it’s hard to deny what a huge shadow all these injuries have cast over the team.
“Yeah, it obviously doesn’t help,” Canucks center Bo Horvat said postgame in Carolina on Friday. “It seems like every year, we keep losing guys and it seems like when we lose one, we lose two. Obviously, it’s never good news when guys go down like this, but we’ve got to find ways to win.”
Another thing not helping Vancouver’s cause is a rash of slow starts. In Carolina, the Canucks trailed 3-0 after one period after giving up the game’s first goal early. For the season, Vancouver is 9-21-2 when allowing the opening goal.
“It’s obviously not easy trailing when you’re down like that and playing catch-up all the time, but we got to find ways to start games a little better than we do,” Horvat said.
For a team that is just 3-7-0 in its past 10 games, starts like that are the last thing Canucks coach Travis Green wants to see.
“I don’t like losing like that. We’re not a good enough team to have only half the guys play well,” Green said in Carolina. “We need more.”
Dallas (33-19-4, 70 points), on the other hand, has won five straight, including a 4-3 shootout win against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
In that game, which was on the tail end of a back-to-back and improved the Stars to 20-8-1 at home and 7-2-1 in their past 10 contests, Dallas spotted the Penguins the first two goals.
However, the Stars bounced back and were able to continue their run of good form.
“We’ve come a long way from the start of the season,” Dallas defenseman John Klingberg, who leads all NHL blue-liners with 52 points, said postgame. “More guys are talking and we have a lot of confidence in how we’re playing. We’re staying in the system and playing our game, so the confidence is high right now for sure.”
Tyler Seguin, an NHL All-Star each of the past three seasons in Dallas, scored for a fifth consecutive game and Stars captain Jamie Benn equaled a season-high with three assists.
Dallas, which is 10-4-0 against the Pacific Division, has already faced the Canucks once this season, edging them 2-1 in overtime in Vancouver on Oct. 30.
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock not only likes seeing his club pile up wins and points, but also is encouraged by the rising confidence level with each passing game.
“I think the confidence comes from our competitiveness. We’re competing at a high level and every night we give ourselves the chance to win,” Hitchcock said. “These are two hungry hockey clubs that we just beat (at Chicago on Thursday and Pittsburgh on Friday). We got home at 3:30 or 4 in the morning and won a hockey game at home against a rested team. That’s big, it’s huge for us. We can grow from here.”
Vancouver did not practice Saturday while the Stars held an optional session at their team facility in Frisco. The Canucks are 6-5-2 against the Central Division and 11-14-3 on the road.