The Vancouver Canucks are charting a new path under new leadership, and the early returns are positive for the Pacific Division club.
After opening their six-game homestand with a loss to the Minnesota Wild on March 2, the Canucks have reeled off a season-high four straight wins. They will look to extend the streak when they face the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.
With coach Rick Tocchet at the helm following the dismissal of Bruce Boudreau on Jan. 22, Vancouver has gone 10-7-2.
That record isn't overwhelming by any means, but the 22 points over 19 contests works out to a 95-point season. That total is usually good enough to merit a postseason berth.
The Canucks' recent results are generating a buzz.
Following Vancouver's 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko said there is a noticeable mood change in the dressing room. It was the opposite at the beginning of the season when a seven-game losing streak (0-5-2) was a harbinger of the former bench boss' fate.
"We can definitely feel it in the room. I think there's a buy-in that's going on right now," said Demko, who has won four of his past five appearances. "That's just playing the right way. It's contagious when everyone's doing it and it looks good."
First-year Vancouver left winger Andrei Kuzmenko -- who at 27 has aged out of rookie status -- has 32 goals and 27 assists in 64 games, including 10 tallies in his past 11 outings.
Tocchet, 58, said the overall trust between teammates plays a large role in the current success.
"You can't play this game if you don't trust your teammates," Tocchet said, "and that's something we've really worked on the last six weeks is trust."
The Central Division-leading Stars enter the Tuesday matchup with a three-game winning streak and a five-point edge on the second-place Wild.
In the second and third matchups of its season-high, six-game road trip, Dallas managed to take down the Seattle Kraken twice, beating them 4-3 in overtime on Saturday and 5-2 on Monday.
Evgenii Dadonov's steal in OT, Max Domi's flip for the primary assist and defenseman Miro Heiskanen's one-timer won the first affair.
Captain Jamie Benn (goal, two assists) and Heiskanen (three helpers) each produced three-point showings in the rematch on Monday. Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, Wyatt Johnston and Evgenii Dadonov contributed a goal and an assist apiece.
"It was an important four points," Stars coach Peter DeBoer said of the results in Seattle. "You look at the standings and we're in a fight for first in the division, first in the conference.
"(The Kraken are) in a battle for playoff positioning. They've been playing great all year, so this was a real test for us coming in here for two games, and I thought our group really responded."
Eight games after being acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights, Dadonov has three goals and five assists.
The Stars have earned points in eight of their past nine games (7-1-1).
Against the Canucks, Dallas is 0-0-1 in the three-game series so far, losing 5-4 in overtime on Feb. 27 in Texas. After Tuesday, the teams will meet again on March 25 in Dallas.
--Field Level Media