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|VAN||2||1||0||(0 - 0)||3|
FLAMES (18-19-3) at CANUCKS (25-8-5)
TV -- SNET-Calgary; SNET-Vancouver
Last 10 -- Calgary 6-4-0; Vancouver 9-0-1
Season series -- The Northwest Division rivals are playing the second of their six games this season. The Canucks rode a hat trick by Mason Raymond to a 7-2 demolition of the Flames in Calgary on Dec. 1.
Big story -- The Flames are playing some of their best hockey of the season, having won four in a row before Monday's 5-2 hiccup to the New York Islanders. But they're ice cold compared with the Canucks, who come home after winning at Dallas, Colorado and San Jose in a four-day span. Vancouver has won six in a row and is 11-0-2 in its last 13 games, putting the Canucks atop the overall NHL standings for the first time since Jan. 13, 2004.
Flames -- If the Flames hope to climb out of 14th place in the West and into the top eight, they can't afford any more performances like Monday night's showing against the Islanders, who came to Calgary 29th in the overall standings. New York jumped out to a 3-1 lead after one period, and though the Flames found their legs in the second, their 43 shots produced just two goals.
With the season reaching the midway point and his team still far removed from a playoff berth, coach Brent Sutter knows his team can't waste games.
"We have to have urgency every game," Sutter said. "There can't be a lack of it. I understand some nights it's not going to be perfect for you, but you have to fight through it, you gotta work through it."
Canucks -- The Canucks ought to receive a boisterous welcome from the sellout crowd at Rogers Arena in their first home appearance of 2011 after torching the Stars, Avs and Sharks in a five-day span. They wrapped up the trip on Monday by winning 4-3 at San Jose, bombarding goaltender Antti Niemi with 47 shots. Alex Burrows' third-period goal broke a 3-3 tie.
"In all areas of the game, I thought we played our best game of the three," coach Alain Vigneault said. "It was a tough grind out there for both teams and we were able to get it done."
Who's hot -- The Sedin twins are lighting up goaltenders around the League. Henrik has 13 points in the Canucks' last seven games, while Daniel has five multi-point performances in that span, good for 11 points. … The Canucks are also getting stellar goaltending. Roberto Luongo is 7-0-1 with a 2.08 goals-against average in his last eight starts, while backup Cory Schneider is 7-0-2 this season and earning more playing time.
Injury report -- Calgary is still without defenseman Steve Staios (ribs). … Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo, who has yet to play this season after tearing an Achilles tendon during the off-season, is skating but not yet ready to play.
Stat pack -- The Canucks' 13-game unbeaten streak in regulation is one game short of a franchise record. They lead the NHL in goal differential at plus-36, and own the biggest lead of any division leader (10 points). … The Sedin twins have 15 points in Vancouver's last three games against Calgary, a big reason Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has a 7.77 GAA in those games.
Puck drop -- The backup goaltender behind Luongo has been the NHL equivalent of the Maytag repairman -- a lot of sitting and waiting. But after starting just five times in the Canucks' first 33 games, Schneider has started four of the last six, including Monday night at San Jose. He's on pace to start 18, the most of any backup in the three seasons Luongo has been healthy.
"We have two great goalies" Daniel Sedin said. "It doesn't matter which one is in, it doesn't change the way we play, and that's a big deal."