Dallas Stars: Roberto Luongo

Stars fall to Canucks, 5-2

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
9:45
PM CT


The Dallas Stars were knocked out of first place in the Pacific Division after losing 5-2 at Vancouver on Friday night. Los Angeles, a 4-1 winner at Edmonton, took over the top spot in the division. The Stars are now seventh in the Western Conference.

The Stars, who have lost five of their last eight games, play at ninth place San Jose Saturday. They lead the Sharks by one point.

Steve Ott and Jake Dowell scored for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen stopped 26 of 30 shots in 49:59 of playing time for the Stars. Richard Bachman played the final 10:01 and stopped three of four shots.

Cory Schneider stopped 28 of 30 for the Canucks, who won their fifth straight game.

First period

Both teams had some good chances early in the period, but the Canucks struck first at the 6:17 mark. Jannik Hansen got to a puck along the right boards and backhanded it to Chris Higgins, who beat Kari Lehtonen with a quick shot from the slot.

Roberto Luongo was expected to start for the Canucks, but Cory Schneider was announced as the starter just before game time. He was superb in the first period, making 13 saves. He had a couple of sharp saves on Jamie Benn along with good stops on Michael Ryder and Mike Ribeiro in the period.

Vancouver had the only power play of the period. The Stars had a 13-7 edge in shots.

Second period

The Stars tied the game at 3:16 of the second. After Jamie Benn put a shot on net off a faceoff, Steve Ott got to the rebound and slipped it past Cory Schneider to make it a 1-1 game.

After that it was a series of quality saves by Schneider and Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Lehtonen had a save on Samuel Pahlsson and two on Chris Higgins. On the Canucks second power play of the game Schneider made a big shorthanded stop on Ott and then made a spectacular save on a shorthanded bid by Loui Eriksson. He made another shorthanded save on Vernon Fiddler on Vancouver’s third power play.

The Canucks took the lead on that third power play when Sami Salo’s blast from the right point went through traffic and past Lehtonen with 8:39 left in the period.

The Canucks made it 3:35 left in the second. Moments after Schneider stopped Jake Dowell, the Canucks went the other way and Henrik Sedin found defenseman Andrew Alberts, who scored off a blast from the left circle.

The Canucks outshot the Stars 20-13 in the second period and had a 27-26 advantage through two periods.

Third period

Reilly Smith got bumped up to a line with Benn and Ott to start the third, and Smith hit the post early in the period. But the Canucks scored twice in a 2:12 to blow the game open. Henrik Sedin set up Alex Burrow, who scored from close range a the 9:06 mark to make it a 4-1 game.

The Stars pulled Lehtonen in favor of Richard Bachman a short time later and the Canucks quickly scored to make it a 5-1 game when a wide open Max Lapierre scored from the slot at the 11:18 mark.

Jake Dowell scored late for the Stars to round out the scoring.

Stars lineup

Eriksson-Ribeiro-Ryder
Ott-Benn-Vincour
Morrow-Fiddler-Burish
Smith-Dowell-Garbutt

Souray-Robidas
Pardy-Daley
Goligoski-Larsen

Lehtonen (starter)
Bachman

Injured: Fistric (abdominal strain), Dvorak (ankle), Nystrom (leg)
Scratched: Petersen, Wandell, Jordie Benn

Big points at stake vs. Canucks tonight

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
3:16
PM CT
There are just five games left in the regular season for the Dallas Stars and it kicks off tonight with the first game of a key back-to-back series. The Stars play at Vancouver tonight and then in San Jose tomorrow.

Right now the focus is on the Canucks. Picking up a win or a point will guarantee that the Stars stay on top of the Pacific Division and third in the West for another day.

“It’s kind of fun, it’s kind of nerve-racking, but the message in here – what we keep telling each other – is we control where we go,” Stars forward Adam Burish said. “We control whether we are going to make it or not, and that’s what you want this time of the year.”

The Stars have won two of three games the Canucks, who are the second seed in the West and are three points behind St. Louis in the race for first overall in the conference.

“It’s big. We want the points and we want to beat the Canucks,” said Burish. “The most important thing is finding ways to win games and not losing ground. You win a game you stay in third, you lose a game and you’re in eight, maybe ninth place every night. That’s just how it feels. It’s just controlling what we can, winning games.”

Mark Fistric (abdominal strain), Radek Dvorak (ankle) and Eric Nystrom (leg) are all out tonight. Only Fistric is skating.

Kari Lehtonen gets the start in goal for the Stars.

Roberto Luongo is expected to start in goal for the Canucks.

The Stars will go with basically the same lineup as last game, although it appears they’ll move Tomas Vincour up to the second line and put Burish on the third line. Here’s the Stars’ projected lineup.

Eriksson-Ribeiro-Ryder
Ott-Benn-Vincour
Morrow-Fiddler-Burish
Smith-Dowell-Garbutt

Souray-Robidas
Pardy-Daley
Goligoski-Larsen

Lehtonen


The Dallas Stars wrapped up an impressive road trip with an impressive victory, beating the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Tuesday night to run their points streak to eight games (7-0-1).

The Stars went 3-0-0 on the road trip through Western Canada and have now won five straight on the road.

“You can’t ask for more. Our guys battled hard tonight at the end of a road trip,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We got six points out of this thing that we desperately needed. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and stay in the grind.”

The Pacific Division leading Stars, who are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, increased their lead in the division to two points. They have a three point lead over the ninth place Los Angeles Kings.

The Stars’ top line came up big again. Mike Ribeiro had two goals and one assist, Loui Eriksson had a goal and an assist and Michael Ryder chipped in two assists. Jamie Benn and Stephane Robidas also scored for the Stars. Richard Bachman stopped 29 of 31 shots for his eighth win of the season.

Bachman faced a test just 24 seconds into the game when Vancouver Zach Kassian was awarded a penalty shot, but the Canucks forward lost control of the puck and never got a shot off.

“I actually felt some jitters. It was the first NHL game I’ve started in Canada and the atmosphere was amazing. So, starting off with a penalty shot is never what you want to see,” Bachman said. “Once that was done it helped settle me in and after that first period I really got comfortable.”

The Stars and Canucks played a scoreless first and the Canucks struck first on a goal by Chris Higgins at the 6:45 mark of the second.

But the Stars scored two goals late in the second to take a lead they would never give up. The Stars scored on their second power play of the night to tie the game at the 16:44 mark. Trevor Daley’s centering pass from the right circle deflected off the skate of Loui Eriksson and past Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.

Mike Ribeiro scored off a two-on-one with Michael Ryder to give the Stars a 2-1 lead with 23 seconds left in the second period.

“We’ll take that,” Ribeiro said of the two goals late in the second. “They are a team that likes to pinch and we were able to win those battles and create a two-on-one there.”

The Stars extended to the lead to 3-1 at 4:25 of the third when Steve Ott set up Jamie Benn, who beat Luongo with a shot from the left circle.

Alex Edler scored for the Canucks to make it a 3-2 game, but the Stars extended the lead once again. Ryder slipped by Daniel Sedin along the right boards in the Vancouver boards off the rush and put the puck towards the net, where Ribeiro tapped it to give the Stars a 4-2 lead with 8:49 remaining. Stephane Robidas scored a late empty net goal to seal the win and perfect road trip for the Stars.

“You definitely want to get as many points as you can, and we got them all on this trip,” said Benn. “We’re just playing a solid team game and everybody is buying in. That’s what you need at a time like this.”

Notes

*The Stars lost Trevor Daley for a good part of the first period after Canucks forward Alex Burrows fell on him during a scramble in front of the Dallas goal. Daley did return for the start of the second period.

*Excluding goals awarded for shootout victories, the Stars have outscored their opposition 26-12 during their eight-game points streak.

*The Stars were 3-3 on the penalty kill and are 13-13 over the last five games and are 23-24 on the PK over the last eight games.

*Michael Ryder picked up two assists to extend his points streak to seven games.

*The Stars are 9-0-1 against Canadian-based teams this season.

Stars-Canucks Preview

March, 5, 2012
3/05/12
9:05
PM CT
Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks
Tuesday, March 6
9:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: KTCK-1310 (AM)

About the Stars

The Stars (35-26-5) ran their points streak to seven games (6-0-1) with a 3-2 shootout win at Calgary Sunday. Kari Lehtonen made 36 saves and was 2-2 in the shootout and Loui Eriksson had one goal, one assist and scored in the shootout.

“We know how big these points are and today we got two more points, it’s huge for us right now,” said Eriksson. “Calgary’s behind us and we needed a big win today and we got it. It’s big, it’s so tight in the conference and that point can really help us.”

The Stars, who are 7-1-2 over their last ten games, moved into first place in the Pacific Division Monday night when Phoenix lost to Pittsburgh in regulation, 2-1.

Richard Bachman will start in goal for the Stars.

Injuries: LW Toby Petersen (personal), LW Jake Dowell (finger) and LW Brenden Morrow (neck/back) are out.

About the Canucks

The Canucks (41-17-8) lost 5-3 to Buffalo on Saturday. The Sabres scored three goals in the first 5:10 of the game, chasing Canucks starter Roberto Luongo from the game.

“It was a bad start,” Luongo said. “I got to be better than that for my teammates. The boys battled hard to try and come back, and played a pretty good match so obviously I'll take the responsibility for this one.”

The Canucks are 1-1-2 over their last four games.

Injuries: D Keith Ballard (concussion), LW Andrew Ebbett (collarbone) and LW Aaron Volpatti (shoulder) are out.

Series notes

*This is the second of four meetings between the two teams.

*The Stars won the first meeting, defeating the Canucks 3-2 (OT) in Dallas on February 26.

*The Stars haven’t won in Vancouver since Jan. 4, 2009, dropping five straight games since then (0-4-1).

Statistical tidbits

*The Stars have won four straight on the road and are 5-1-2 in their last eight road games.

*The Canucks are 7-1-1 in their last nine home games.

*The Stars have allowed 10 goals over the last 7 games (1.43 per game).

*The Stars are 20-21 (95.2%) on the penalty kill over the last seven games.

*The Canucks are 1-18 (5.6%) on the power play over the last seven games.

*Stars forward Michael Ryder is on a four-game goal scoring streak has 10 goals in his last 15 games.

*Stars forward Loui Eriksson has 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in his last 13 games.

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars defeated one of the top teams in the league Sunday, and did it dramatic fashion in front of a revved up crowd. Mike Ribeiro scored the game-tying goal with 52.5 seconds left in regulation and then Loui Eriksson scored with 1:08 remaining in overtime to give the Stars a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks before a near-sellout crowd of 18,010 at American Airlines Center.

The Stars, who ran their winning streak to four games, increased their lead in the race for eighth place in the Western Conference to two points. They pulled to within one point of seventh-seeded San Jose and are three points out of the Pacific Division lead.

“It was huge for us to get that first point and then to be able to win in overtime, it’s a big game for us,” said Ribeiro, who also had an assist in the game. “To come back against a team like that is good for us, it’s good for the confidence. Guys are doing the right things, special teams are kind of clicking now. Everyone is pushing right now and playing well.”

The four-game winning streak is the first for the Stars since October 29-November 8.

“We have to keep building on the last couple games. We have been playing really good lately here. We just have to keep going here,” said Eriksson. “Vancouver is really a good team and I thought we played really good and we got the two points, that’s the important thing.”

The Canucks built a 2-0 lead in the second period on goals by Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, but the Stars started their rally late in the second with a power play goal. Ribeiro set up Michael Ryder off the rush and Ryder beat Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo with a one-timer from the left circle with 1:56 left in the second.

The Stars couldn’t crack Luongo and the Canucks until late in regulation. After an icing call against the Canucks, the Stars got an offensive zone draw. Steve Ott won it against Ryan Kesler and Alex Goligoski’s shot was redirected into the net by Ribeiro to tie the game at 2-2.

“It was a big draw. Otter won it pretty clean, so it gives you more time to do something with it,” said Ribeiro. “Great heads up play from Goose We kind of looked at each other and it was more of a shot-pass than anything else and I was just trying to redirect it on net. I was lucky enough that it went in.”

In overtime, Daley took a pass from Ott and sent a cross-ice pass from the left wing to Eriksson, who put the puck into the side of the net to secure the win for the Stars.

“It was a great pass,” Eriksson said. "I was open there ... so it was pretty easy to put home.”

The Stars improved to 8-5-2 since the All-Star break, and it will have them in a playoff spot as the NHL trade deadline hits Monday afternoon.

“I don’t know if it is a statement or not, but certainly we got going at the right time,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We’ve got a lot of hockey left, almost a quarter of the season. Good for those guys. I don’t know what the trade deadline holds, but certainly with what we have and the way we are in that room, we are more than comfortable that when Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn get back we can get ourselves where we need to get.”

Notes

*Sunday’s attendance was 18,010.

*Vancouver lost for the first time this season when leading after two periods (26-0-1)

*The Stars were 1-2 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill in the game.

*Stars center Jamie Benn missed his sixth straight game with a leg injury.

*Stars forwards Brenden Morrow (neck/shoulder) and Jake Dowell (finger), who are also out, remain on injured reserve.

*Defenseman Adam Pardy was a healthy scratch for Dallas.

Vezina Trophy finalists

April, 22, 2011
4/22/11
12:13
PM CT
The Vezina Trophy finalists were announced today and they are: Roberto Luongo, Pekka Rinne and Tim Thomas. Here's the release from the NHL:
Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks, Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins are the three finalists for the 2010-11 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position,” the National Hockey League announced today.

The general managers of the 30 NHL clubs submitted ballots for the Vezina Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 22, during the 2011 NHL Awards from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas. The 2011 NHL Awards will be broadcast by VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Following are the finalists for the Vezina Trophy, in alphabetical order:

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Luongo backstopped the Canucks to their finest regular season in franchise history, capturing the Presidents' Trophy for best record and posting the lowest team goals-against average (2.20). Luongo went 38-15-7 in 60 appearances, registering the best goals-against average in his 11-year NHL career (2.11) and his top save percentage since joining the Canucks in 2006-07 (.928). He tied for the League lead in victories, ranked second in goals-against average and fourth in save percentage. Luongo is a Vezina finalist for the third time, having finished third in the voting in 2004 and second in 2007.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Rinne played a critical role in securing the Predators' sixth playoff berth in the past seven seasons by registering career-best totals in all major categories, going 33-22-9 with a 2.12 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and six shutouts in 64 games. He ranked second among NHL goaltenders in save percentage and placed third in goals-against average. Beginning with a 4-1 win at Minnesota on New Year's Eve, the first-time Vezina Trophy finalist started 42 of the Predators' final 46 games, allowing two goals or fewer 28 times. He posted 25 wins in that span, second in the League behind San Jose's Antti Niemi (27).

Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Thomas enjoyed a record-setting bounceback season after undergoing off-season hip surgery. He won his first eight decisions, which broke a club record set by Tiny Thompson in 1937-38, and won his first nine road games -- becoming the first NHL goaltender to do so since Chicago's Glenn Hall in 1965-66. The 2009 Vezina Trophy winner finished the season with a 35-11-9 record and .938 save percentage, eclipsing Dominik Hasek's .937 with Buffalo in 1998-99 as the best since the statistic was introduced in 1976-77. Thomas also led all goaltenders in goals-against average (2.00) and ranked second in shutouts (nine).


The Dallas Stars’ losing streak hit four games with a 5-2 loss in Vancouver on Saturday night. It was the eighth loss in the last nine games (1-7-1) for the Stars and their seventh straight loss on the road. The Stars lost all four games against Vancouver this season by a combined score of 20-5. James Neal and Brenden Morrow scored for Dallas. Andrew Raycroft made 33 saves.

Quotable

“You can’t give them outnumbered chances and they scored four goals on outnumbered chances. That’s one of the things going into this game trying not give up and we were guilty of it. From that standpoint we didn’t do a good enough job with our third guy. Their forwards are dangerous, especially the ones with speed. They can hurt you.” – Stars coach Marc Crawford.

“It’s just bad timing right now, being in a funk that we can’t get out of." - Stars captain Brenden Morrow

Notes

*The Stars have been outscored 49-24 in their last 12 games (2-9-1)

*The Stars have been outscored 36-14 during their seven game road losing streak.

*The Stars have allowed four goals or more in seven of their last 12 games.

*The Stars have scored two goals or fewer in eight of the last 11 games.

*The Stars were outscored 20-5 in going 0-4-0 against the Canucks this season.

First period

The Canucks scored 2:46 into the game to take a 1-0 lead. After a faceoff in the Dallas zone, Daniel Sedin won a puck battle with Stephane Robidas along the goal line and then beat Andrew Raycroft with a shot from a sharp angle.

The Stars bounced back to tie less than two minutes later when Loui Eriksson stole the puck along the boards in the Vancouver zone and help set up James Neal, who scored from just beyond the top of the right circle at the 4:36 mark.

Both teams had a chance to take the lead. Raycroft denied a point blank chance by Vancouver forward Manny Malhotra.

The Stars had a five-on-three power play for 54 seconds, but couldn’t take advantage.

Second period

The Canucks took the lead at 6:29 of the second after the Stars turned the puck over in the Vancouver zone. Vancouver went on the rush the other way and Raffi Torres scored off a blast from the right faceoff circle.

Andrew Raycroft made some big saves to keep the Stars close, stopping a good chance on Mikael Samuelsson and then making a couple of saves on Vancouver’s second chance of the game.

Third period

The Canucks were able to extend their lead to 3-1 with 12:21 left in the game when Henrik Sedin sent a pass to Daniel Sedin, who busted in on the Dallas net and scored off a shot from the bottom of the left circle.

The Stars missed on power play chance, but were able to cut the lead to 3-2 with an even strength goal with 6:27 remaining. Jamie Langenbrunner put a shot on net from the left wing, Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo couldn’t control the rebound and Brenden Morrow knocked the puck into the net.

But the Canucks scored two quick goals off the rush to put the game away. Henrik Sedin finished off a three-on-one rush with 4:07 remaining.

Just 33 seconds later Manny Malhotra set up Torres, who finished off a two-on-one rush to make it a 5-2 game.

Stars lineup

Morrow-Ribeiro-Langenbrunner
Neal-Ott-Eriksson
Petersen-Wandell-Williams
Sutherby-Wandell-Vincour
Sutherby-Wandell-Williams
Sutherby-Gagnon-Vincour

Fistric-Robidas
Woywitka-Daley
Skrastins-Niskanen

Raycroft
Lehtonen (backup)

Scratches: Ludwig

Injured: Richards (concussion-like symptoms), Grossman (hip), Burish (orbital bone), Barch (orbital bone), Benn (shoulder), Sawada (shoulder)

Power play units

Morrow-Ribeiro-Williams-Daley-Robidas
Neal-Ott-Langenbrunner-Daley-Robidas
Morrow-Ribeiro-Eriksson-Langenbrunner-Robidas

Penalty kill units

Ott-Langenbrunner-Fistric-Robidas
Ribeiro-Ott-Fistric-Robidas
Ribeiro-Morrow-Fistric-Robidas
Ott-Wandell-Skrastins-Robidas

Jeff Woywitka out tonight

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
4:33
PM CT
Defenseman Jeff Woywitka (shoulder) will miss his second straight game when the Dallas Stars take on the Canucks in Vancouver tonight.

Stars coach Marc Crawford did say that both Loui Eriksson and Brian Sutherby, who missed the game in Calgary on Friday, will be in the lineup. That means Francis Wathier will be the scratch at forward. Toby Petersen (leg) is still on injured reserve.

Kari Lehtonen gets the start in net for the Stars.

As for the Canucks, it will be Roberto Luongo in goal. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who suffered an eye injury in a game against Calgary on Saturday, is good to go in the game.

Game time is 9 p.m. and it's on Fox Sports Southwest.

Friday morning skate update

December, 31, 2010
12/31/10
11:57
AM CT
A few notes from this morning's skate at American Airlines Center.

It will be Kari Lehtonen in net for the Stars and Cory Schneider in goal for the Canucks. Schneider is 5-0-2 with 2.56 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage as the backup to Roberto Luongo this season.

Luongo won't play tonight since he just rejoined the team after being with his wife in Florida for the birth of the couple's second child.

It looks like forward Krys Barch and defenseman Matt Niskanen will be the scratches for the Stars. This will the fifth time in the last ten games that Niskanen has been a healthy scratch.

A reminder that tonight's game is a 7 p.m. start.

Some thoughts on 1st period (1-0 Canada)

February, 28, 2010
2/28/10
3:00
PM CT
Canada leads it 1-0 and has outshot the U.S., 10-8. Some thoughts:

* Isn't it great to watch hockey without any commercials during the period? Not only is the game played faster, but it sure seems like the players can still get enough short breaks on icing and penalty calls, yet the flow isn't interrupted.

* That crowd seems loud even on TV. Lots of red and lots of exciting folks now that Canada is up, 1-0.

* I know that a lot is made of scoring the first goal, but I think it was very critical for Canada. The crowd is into the game and now you force the U.S. to answer. Canada is 4-0 in this Olympics when scoring first. That was a big one and it came off a mistake by the U.S.

* Good penalty kill for the Americans shortly after that first goal was scored. The U.S. will likely get a power play chance in this second period. We'll see if they can take advantage.

* Brenden Morrow got some power play time for Canada and he was in his customary spot -- right in front of the net. Morrow has played better and better throughout these Games. I can't wait to see how he does in March for the Stars.

* Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo are into the game now. It's not going to be easy to score goals.

Chatting with a Panthers blogger

October, 30, 2009
10/30/09
1:47
PM CT

Don from the Florida Panthers blog, Litter Box Cats, answered some questions about the Panthers in preparation for tonight's game. Here goes:

Q: Give us a quick scouting report on the Panthers. They are near the bottom of the standings. Why are they struggling?

A: The problems associated with their slow start appear to be coming from several different areas: While adequate during a few games, the goaltending has been subpar. The presumed "stars" of the club (Steven Weiss, Nathan Horton, and David Booth - now out with a concussion) have not produced even close to their potential. And has the group tuned out coach Peter DeBoer, or have his strategies simply been ineffective?

Q: Steven Reinprecht appears to have started the season well, leading the team in goals and points. What makes him such a good player?

A: After a mere 10 games in a Panthers uniform, we're all still getting to know him. He was brought in as a second-line center; perhaps he's out to prove otherwise. In any case, he's been the most solid and adaptable player on the roster. A few more like him and fortunes could change quickly.

Q: Talk about the Panthers' lines. What can Stars fans expect to see from the top line? Which line has played the best lately?

A: Since last weekend -- when LW Booth and RW Radek Dvorak suffered injuries -- the lines have been experimental. In the one game since last Saturday in Philadelphia, Coach Pete has played mix-and-match, completely out of necessity (though one could argue few combinations were working effectively anyway prior to that). C Dominic Moore -- also battered with a broken nose in that infamous Flyers match one week ago -- will be undergoing nasal surgery, forcing the callup of Jeff Taffe from Rochester. Also up from the Amerks', Kendall McArdle and Michal Repik, who arrived several days ago and had a strong debut against Ottawa. Plug them in wherever you choose. Which line has played the best? That's up for debate, since none have found their groove yet, and with players transitioning in-and-out so frequently, it's not really a valid question at this point. Easy answer: they've all been lousy.

Q: Florida is near the bottom of the league in special teams. What has been the big issue on the penalty kill and power play?

A: Same as with the regular lines: they all appear snake-bitten. The strategies haven't looked all that solid, either, meaning the offense can't keep possession on the PP and the defense cannot force turnovers on the PK. None of the combinations have looked comfortable. Rookie Dmitry Kulikov, however, has been a bright spot, with four assists (all on the power play).

Q: Will the Stars see Tomas Vokoun in nets? Talk about his season so far.

A: As I write this, Florida's goaltender for this evening has not been publicly announced, but with another game on Saturday (St. Louis), Vokoun will certainly see a start at some point over the next 36 hours. He hasn't been "bad", just inconsistent. And when facing the insane number of shots which the Panthers seem organizationally obligated to allow, not many other netminders in this league could handle the weight of it. Craig Anderson was one. Roberto Luongo was another. Scott Clemmensen - the Cats' current "backup" - carried the torch for New Jersey during a healthy portion of last season, albeit facing a far less shot average each night. Bottom line: the lousy start can't be hung entirely at Vokoun's door.

Q: Are there any injuries to report?

A: Where to begin? As noted above, Booth is out at least a week -- though probably more -- with concussion symptoms. Dvorak is nursing a minor ligament tear in his knee. Moore's getting his nose reconstructed, and Nick Tarnasky has been out since the exhibition season with a broken orbital bone suffered in a fight. Oh, and D Bryan Allen is playing staggered games in an effort to ween him back into full-time duty after sitting out primarily all of last year following surgery. Other than that - and D/F Ville Koistinen not knowing what his role will be from night-to-night, everything's awesome.

Q: What Florida players should Stars fans keep an eye on tonight?

A: Reinprecht, for his recent dynamic play demands it. Kulikov is another: and keep in mind he turned 19 yesterday. Michal Repik is gaining a reputation (in the AHL) for highlight-reel moves, and he's just plain fun to watch. Michael Frolik is always dangerous.

Q: Anything else about the Panthers that Stars fans should know?

A: Each year Florida struggles to find that all-important "identity"; the search goes on. In light of recent injuries, this is not too surprising, but the rot began earlier than one week ago. A blown-lead 4-3 home loss to Ottawa on Wednesday evidently has much of the club hopeful about the future for some reason; whether that translates into success this weekend is anyone's guess. Your classic enigma.

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