Mason Raymond Tallies as Vancouver Canucks Log 1-in-a-Row vs. Dallas Stars

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistMarch 23, 2012

Canucks' first goal-scorer Mason Raymond
Canucks' first goal-scorer Mason RaymondChristian Petersen/Getty Images

2010-2011 NHL leading scorer Daniel Sedin is out of the Vancouver Canucks lineup with an upper-body injury. His assailant, Duncan Keith, has a telephone appointment with Brendan Shanahan on Friday. That much we know.

Head injuries are tricky at the best of times, so there's no point in speculating on what's wrong, or how long.

With their 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars tonight at the American Airlines Center, the Canucks have all but clinched their fifth Northwest Division title in the last six years. With that in mind, they should err on the side of caution with a valuable asset like Sedin. Let the medical team take their time in evaluating his condition and prescribing treatment.

Despite all the attention that concussions have received this year, they're still mysterious beasts. If that is what ails him, the timetable for his return is murky.

The task for the Vancouver Canucks on this night was not to focus on what they didn't have, but instead to try to build off the emotion that bubbled to the surface in Wednesday night's game against the Blackhawks. Could they get back on track and start to build momentum through these last few games of the regular season?

Coming into Thursday's matchup, the Stars had beaten the Canucks twice this year, and the rivalry between these two teams now extends as far as the owners' boxes. New Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi is a Vancouverite who had originally been part of Francesco Aquilini's partnership to buy the Canucks. He was ultimately shut out when the deal was completed in 2004. 

A long lawsuit eventually ruled in Aquilini's favour but you can bet that both sides remember. When the Stars played in Vancouver two weeks ago, Gaglardi invited his new team—and a local photographer—to enjoy an evening of ball hockey and fine wine at his home before beating the Canucks 5-2 the next night.

Five Western Conference teams are currently competing for the last two playoff spots, and Dallas is one of those teams. You can bet Dallas was hungry for the points tonight, no matter what Vancouver's agenda might have been.

The result was the Canucks' second spirited affair in as many nights. If the Stars do make the playoffs, they're as likely as anyone to be Vancouver's first-round opponent. For the Canucks, after losing two games to Dallas in the last month, it was important not to let that slide continue through the two remaining regular-season matchups and let the Stars get a mental edge.

A two-point game from much-maligned Mason Raymond turned out to be the difference. After missing significant time recovering from his broken back suffered in last year's playoffs, Raymond has had a hard time finding his game, and was a healthy scratch on Monday in Minnesota

Returning to the lineup in Chicago, he was held off the score sheet but played his most robust game in quite some time.  On Thursday, he was able to ripple the twine on a goal-scorer's goal in the slot in the first period, then feed Kevin Bieksa in the third for what would prove to be the game winner. After showing some uncharacteristic fire following his brother's injury on Wednesday, Henrik Sedin also chipped in with two helpers against the Stars. 

Other than an uncharacteristic puck-handling gaffe by Cory Schneider in the third period that led to Dallas' only goal, the Canucks executed a solid road game plan.  They played physically, they limited the Stars to 26 shots and they buckled down to defend six on four for the last 45 seconds of regulation.

For now, mission accomplished.  First win of the season's final road trip.  Two points in the bank.  A chance to even the season series with the Stars 2-2 when they visit Rogers Arena next week.

The trip won't get any less intense when the Canucks face another potential playoff rival, the Colorado Avalanche, on Saturday in Denver.