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Canucks looking to climb playoff ladder

Tuesday, 03.31.2009 / 2:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

In January, it looked like the Canucks were done. Ten losses in 12 games, and eight straight defeats to end the month, had Vancouver looking at another spring watching the playoffs.

Since February, though, the Canucks are 19-5-1, and a win Tuesday against Minnesota (8 p.m. ET, GCL) could move them into first place in the Northwest Division.

If the Canucks earn one point, they could slide past the Blackhawks into fourth place in the conference. Chicago, though, has won three of its last four as it heads into Montreal (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS).

The Canadiens are equally as desperate for points. They enter the night eighth in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of the Florida Panthers. While the Canadiens are skating against the Blackhawks, the Panthers go for their third straight win when they host Ottawa (7:30 p.m. ET, GCL).

Also tonight, Nashville is in Columbus (7 p.m. ET, GCL). The seventh-place Predators trail the sixth-place Blue Jackets by two points in a game has the added allure of a battle between Calder-candidate goaltenders Pekka Rinne of the Predators and Steve Mason of the Blue Jackets.

Other games see the Bruins hosting the Lightning; the Oilers and Ducks trying to step past each other in an effort climb back into the top eight in the Western Conference; and the Stars visiting the Kings.

Here are some statistics to be aware of:

* Boston center David Krejci is just 3 assists shy of 50 for the season. Linemate Blake Wheeler is tied for the second among Eastern Conference rookies in scoring with 41 points and is tied for third in the League with a plus-34 rating. The third member of the line, Michael Ryder, had an assist Sunday against Philadelphia to give him his fourth 50-point season in five NHL campaigns.

* The Blue Jackets and the Predators are the only two Western Conference teams who have yet to win a playoff round. Nashville has won its last three games and is tied for the fourth-best winning percentage in one-goal games in the conference at .571. Columbus is 20-11-2 when being outshot.

* Chicago center Jonathan Toews leads the team with 30 goals, including 10 goals while the game is tied. After scoring just 13 goals in 45 games before the All-Star break, he has 17 goals in 29 games since then.

* Panthers defenseman Karlis Skrastins leads the Southeast Division and is fifth in the Eastern Conference with 159 blocked shots and averages the third-most shorthanded ice time on the team at 3:17. Skrastins is known as a defensive defenseman, but he's just 1 goal short of tying his career-high of 5, and 3 points short of tying his career-high of 17.

* Vancouver center Henrik Sedin has 6 assists and 9 points in his last four games, including a three-assist effort Sunday in the Canucks' 4-0 victory against the Blackhawks. Sedin has 8 assists in five games against the Wild this season.

* Wild right wing Owen Nolan has played 1,121 career games, but still is effective and has 3 goals -- two of which were game-winning goals -- and 7 points in his last five games. Nolan leads the team with 23 goals -- 18 of which came at home -- and has scored 20 goals for the first time since the 2002-03 season when he was with San Jose.

* Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf leads the team in scoring by 16 points, and he has 8 goals and 14 points in 14 career games against the Oilers, including 2 goals and 4 points in three games this season. Since being held pointless in his first four games of the season, Getzlaf hasn't been held pointless in three consecutive games.

* Edmonton center Patrick O'Sullivan has just 1 goal and a minus-8 rating in 13 games with the Oilers since being acquired from the Kings at the trade deadline. O'Sullivan played more than 20 minutes in four of his first nine games with the Oilers, but hasn't played more than 19 minutes in four games since then.

* Kings center Anze Kopitar leads the team with 37 assists and 62 points, but is tied for the worst plus-minus rating on the team and the Pacific Division at minus-19. While Kopitar scored 25 goals this season and last season, he has just 1 goal in his last eight games and has 4 goals in 20 career games against the Stars.

Contact Adam Schwartz at aschwartz@nhl.com.
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