Stars look to complete road-trip sweep in Vancouver
The Dallas Stars are rolling at the right time.
As the end of the NHL regular season approaches, the Stars (41-31-6) have won three straight games. Perhaps more importantly, Dallas has reeled off seven straight road victories heading into Saturday's game in Vancouver.
"I think it's the will inside that locker room and it's those players wanting not only to make the playoffs but to go in there and play the right way," Stars coach Jim Montgomery recently told reporters.
The road success is a huge factor as the Stars, contrary to early-season woes that prompted club president Jim Lites to rip captain Jamie Benn and fellow forward Tyler Seguin, already appear to have secured a playoff berth. Traditionally, teams that perform best in the postseason do so by earning more road victories than their rivals.
On Saturday, Montgomery's crew has a chance to close out its current four-game trip with a perfect 4-0 record. The Stars' latest away victory came Thursday night as they edged the Oilers 3-2 in a shootout in Edmonton.
The Stars will try to finish their four-game road trip undefeated when they play at the Canucks on Saturday. Their seven-game road winning streak is the longest active such streak in the NHL, their latest coming in the form of a comeback from a two-goal deficit. The win tightened the Stars' grip on the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference while also helping them close in on the St. Louis Blues in the race for third place in the Central Division.
"It's huge to get (those) two (points), and we'll move on and look forward to Vancouver," Benn told reporters.
But the Stars will likely have to face the Canucks without top goaltender Ben Bishop, who was sidelined with a lower-body injury in Calgary earlier this week. Landon Bow, recalled from the minors for the second time this month due to a Bishop injury, is currently serving as the backup to Anton Khudobin.
Montgomery may opt to give Bow a start against the Canucks (33-35-10) who already have their eyes on the future.
The Canucks liked what they saw Thursday as they beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 in a shootout.
Quinn Hughes, a highly touted offensive defenseman who was drafted seventh overall by Vancouver in 2018, stood out in his NHL debut. He recorded an assist on a power-play goal that made many highlight reels and showed considerable flair in three-on-three overtime with young stars Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.
"Obviously, I want to play my best hockey here and produce and do what I can to pitch in, so it's nice to do that," Hughes told reporters.
The 19-year-old Orlando, Fla., native opted to play a second year at the University of Michigan before turning pro. He signed with the Canucks earlier this month but his anxiously awaited NHL debut was delayed until Thursday because of a foot injury suffered in the playoffs with Michigan.
Well after Thursday's game, his assist was drawing rave reviews. Hughes circled the offensive zone with the puck, stopped and backtracked behind the net -- with veteran Trevor Lewis on him -- and then came out and fired a high shot. Boeser roofed the rebound while falling down.
In overtime, Hughes, Pettersson and Boeser worked the puck around the Kings' zone with relative ease.
"I think I could get used to it," quipped Boeser about playing alongside Hughes.
The question now is: What can Hughes do for an encore?
"I'm just trying to take it one step at a time and learn every day," he said. "From Game 1 to Game 2, I'll be better -- and from Game 2 to Game 3, I'll be better. I'll just try to keep building."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 29, 2019