Carol Schram: Vancouver Canucks Game Day: Defending Dallas, Eddie Lack Gets His Chance

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Vancouver Canucks vs. Dallas Stars – Wednesday December 17 – 7:00 p.m. – Sportsnet, TSN1040

Vancouver Canucks: 18-10-2 38 points second in Pacific Division

Dallas Stars: 11-13-5 27 points sixth in Central Division

The Vancouver Canucks are looking to improve their defensive responsibility and get back into the win column as they host the dynamic Dallas Stars on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.

In their last four games, the Canucks have been outscored 17-7, collecting just a single point along the way against the Ottawa Senators.

Though they’ve played two more games than Vancouver, the San Jose Sharks are on a three-game winning streak and have tied Vancouver in the Pacific Division standings with 38 points. The Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames are just two points back, so the Canucks had better start winning if they’d like to be considered a playoff team when the Christmas holiday break kicks in next week.

Willie Desjardins used a video session and some tweaks at practice to try to get his team back on track with some adjustments to his system. He doesn’t offer up many specifics, but here’s the explanation from the man himself:

He mentions the fact that he’s still learning how the team responds to its travel schedule, and making his way around the league. Tonight will be his second time facing the Dallas Stars, so I’m hopeful that he saw enough of Dallas’ strengths when they beat the Canucks back in October to be able to implement a more effective plan tonight.

The Canucks are holding an optional morning skate at Rogers Arena. Here’s the big news so far:

Based on goalie behaviour so far this morning, I’m guessing it’s Lack tonight vs Stars..

— Blake Price (@blakeprice1040) December 17, 2014

This is now officially confirmed:

Lack is in tonight versus the Stars. “I’m excited to get in there” #Canucks

— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) December 17, 2014

Did I mention that the Canucks have given up 17 goals in their last four games? Eddie Lack was responsible for four of those goals, in the shootout loss to Ottawa, but was perfect in 34 minutes of relief work against the Toronto Maple Leafs and shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins in his start before that.

Lack’s record this season is 2-3-2, with a .911 save percentage and 2.77 goals-against average. Compare that to Ryan Miller’s .900 and 2.69 and you get a murky picture of Vancouver’s best path to getting some points tonight.

I’m happy to see Lack get the start. I haven’t forgotten the good work he did in the early part of last season, before he was ground into dust in the late going. Miller wasn’t the problem in Saturday’s game, but a change of pace might help give the team a bit of a mental boost tonight.

For his part, it sounds like Kevin Bieksa is none too pleased with the negative attention he’s been receiving from the media of late. Though Bieksa’s a minus-five in the team’s last four games, he told Brad Ziemer that we’re misunderstanding the problem in this Vancouver Sun story:

The word pinch gets thrown around pretty loosely around here and I don’t think most people understand what it means. Pinching, I think, is a word that is misused in media. It’s part of a system — it’s pressure, we have had a five-man pressure system all season long and have been very successful with it.

We have usually made the right reads going down the wall but sometimes you make the right read and the puck sneaks by and that’s where you have numbers. So last game we made some bad reads and we also didn’t have numbers, so with the system we jus didn’t execute it. It wasn’t like we were pinching more or less, we were still playing the same system but we weren’t executing it.

Bieksa will get his chance to show us whether he can make he can conjure up a little more puck luck with new partner Ryan Stanton tonight. It can’t get any worse—can it?

After a one-game experiment with new line combinations, the Canucks should be back to their tried-and-true forward lines tonight. Alex Burrows got a look on the first power-play unit at practice on Tuesday, so we might see a shakeup there.

As for the Dallas Stars—yes, Tyler Seguin is still sitting at the top of the scoring race in both goals (23) and points (38). He’ll be the player to watch tonight for Dallas.

Erik Cole is also a freakishly-effective Canuck-killer:

Somebody please explain: Erik Cole has 10 points all season, but has 11 goals in his last 10 games vs #Canucks

— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) December 17, 2014

The Stars are without Valeri Nichushkin, who’s sidelined with a hip injury, Patrick Eaves (ankle) and Ryan Garbutt, who’s serving his second suspension of the season after a slewfoot on Dustin Byfuglien last week.

Nothing definite about who will start in net for Dallas tonight, though the Stars’ website suggests that backup Anders Lindback could see action in one of the first two games of Dallas’ road trip.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Enjoy the game. Here’s hoping for a better all-round effort tonight!