Just as the Columbus Blue Jackets are improving on the power play, they'll meet a Vancouver Canucks team that is the NHL's best when it comes to killing penalties.
Columbus will try to win the special-teams battle and earn its fourth straight victory when it visits GM Place on Tuesday night.
The Blue Jackets (20-25-5) are 22nd in the league in power-play percentage at 16.2, but they've scored five goals with the man advantage in 21 chances (24 percent) during their three-game win streak.
Columbus managed only four power-play goals in the eight games prior to its current run.
The Blue Jackets relied on special teams play again Saturday, going 2-of-7 with the man advantage and limiting Minnesota to one goal in nine power-play opportunities in a 3-2 win.
"It was a special teams game," said Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team has won four of five. "We got the lead and then hung on. Both teams knew the significance of the two points."
Columbus newfound effectiveness on the power play will be tested by the Canucks, who lead the league at 88.8 percent on the penalty kill (253-for-285). Vancouver has killed off 33 straight short-handed situations over the last six games.
The Canucks defeated San Jose 3-1 on Sunday to improve to 11-1-2 since Dec. 25 and move into first place in the Northwest Division, one point ahead of Calgary.
"We were very disciplined in our system," said Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, who made 38 saves, "and made some keys plays in getting the puck out and sacrificing our bodies."
Luongo has helped the Canucks go 10-1-2 in their last 13 games despite being outshot in each of those contests.
"It seems we give up more shots, we get more wins, so whatever works," Luongo said. "Some nights I'm going to bail them out, and some nights they're going to bail me out. That's the way it works on a team. As long as we keep winning, that's all that matters."
Luongo looks for another strong performance as the Canucks play the third game of a four-game homestand. He's won nine of his last 11 games at GM Place, including eight straight victories from Dec. 8-Jan. 1.
Luongo has defeated the Blue Jackets twice this season, making 18 saves in a 3-2 victory at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 6, and stopping 24 shots for a 1-0 win Nov. 28 at Vancouver. The Blue Jackets took the third meeting 3-2 on Dec. 22 at home.
While there seems to be little doubt Luongo will start for the fourth time in as many matchups with Columbus on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets are likely to have third-stringer Ty Conklin in net. Fredrik Norrena, who had been starting since Pascal Leclaire was injured Dec. 26, is day-to-day with a groin injury he sustained in Saturday's win.
Norrena turned away 20 shots before departing late in the second period. He was replaced by Conklin, who stopped 15 of 16 shots in relief.
Leclaire isn't expected to return to the lineup until mid-February after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month.
Columbus recalled Tomas Popperle from Syracuse of the AHL on Sunday to serve as the backup to Conklin, who gave his club a chance to win with the strong performance against the Wild.
"It was a great team win. A great effort by everybody, especially Ty," said defenseman Rostislav Klesla, who contributed a goal and an assist. "He came into the net and made some big saves for us in a tough situation."
Conklin and the Blue Jackets will look to cool off Canucks left wing Taylor Pyatt, who had a goal and an assist against the Sharks to extend his point streak to six games, during which he has five goals and four assists.
Columbus win in the last meeting with Vancouver snapped a four-game losing streak in the series. The Canucks have never lost twice to the Blue Jackets in a season during Columbus seven-year history.
- Associated Press