The Vancouver Canucks find themselves on the verge of matching their longest winning streak from all of last season thanks to a remarkable defensive display.
Vancouver looks to win its seventh in a row Friday night and continue its recent domination of the visiting Dallas Stars, who struggled on their end of the ice their last time out.
While Cory Schneider was expected to replace Roberto Luongo as the No. 1 goalie, they've instead combined to form one of the most stifling duos in the league. Luongo has gone 4-0-2 with an NHL-leading 1.45 goals-against average and Schneider is 4-2-0 with a 2.36 GAA.
"Arguably the most consistent part of our team has been goaltending - no matter who is in net between the two of them," defenseman Kevin Bieksa told the league's official website. "They both give us a great chance to win every game."
After Schneider turned away 33 shots in a 5-1 victory over Calgary on Saturday, Luongo made 25 saves to win his fourth consecutive start Tuesday, 2-1 over Minnesota. The Canucks, who've outscored opponents 18-6 during their run, last pulled out seven straight wins March 22-April 3.
"They're making a lot of key saves for us when we're down or in tight games," said forward Jannik Hansen, who scored for the third time in four games Tuesday.
"It seems everybody is stepping up left and right and obviously we know we are getting tremendous goaltending every night and it's winning us a lot of games right now. Points we are getting now are points we don't have to fight for towards the end of the regular season."
The Canucks (8-2-2) now turn their attention to the Stars, whom they've outscored 51-29 during an 11-2-1 stretch. Schneider has posted a 1.26 GAA in winning four consecutive starts in this series, and Vancouver has taken six of seven matchups at home.
The Stars (7-6-1) had won four in a row before allowing their most goals of the season in a 7-4 loss at Calgary on Wednesday. Dallas never really had a chance after giving up four goals over the first 20 minutes.
"I don't know if we weren't ready as much as we weren't ready to compete," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We were soft in the beginning, soft with our sticks, soft with our play. We weren't ready."
Jaromir Jagr set up Brenden Morrow's two goals, and Richard Bachman stopped just 16 of 22 shots.
"We were always one or two steps behind," Jagr said. "Next time we have to play a little bit better."
Kari Lehtonen could be back in goal after compiling a 1.77 GAA in winning all five of his starts this month. Lehtonen, though, is 2-7-0 versus the Canucks with a 3.69 GAA - his second-worst mark against any opponent. He is 0-3-0 with a 5.19 GAA in three career starts at Vancouver.
Lehtonen will need to be wary of Henrik Sedin, who has five goals and 19 assists during the last 14 games in this series. With 755 career points, Sedin is one away from tying Markus Naslund's franchise record.
Vancouver announced Thursday that center Manny Malhotra will miss the rest of the season after failing to adapt sufficiently following a career-threatening eye injury.
Malhotra, in the final season of a three-year contract, had no points in nine games this season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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