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All eyes will be on Canucks-Wings showdown

by Matthew Mankiewich
CANUCKS (47-17-9) at RED WINGS (43-21-9)

Last 10 -- Vancouver 8-2-0, Detroit 4-3-3.

TV: Versus, TSN, Fox Sports-Detroit.

Season series -- It's the last meeting of the regular season at least, and the last chance for the Canucks to get a split of the four games. It's also a chance for them to win six straight road games for the first time since Dec. 26, 2006-Jan 18, 2007.

Big story -- The Northwest Division and a playoff spot are all sewn up, the last regular-season objective for the Canucks is their first-ever Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. The Red Wings still need to keep the Sharks at bay to secure their second seed and possibly take a bite out of the Canucks' eight-point lead.

Team scope:

Canucks -- Getting hit with a puck in the eye is scary, and Manny Malhotra's injury is serious enough to warrant surgery and keep him out for the rest of the season. The loss hurts as Malhotra is second in the NHL in faceoffs at 61.7 percent and was a major factor in the penalty kill's leap from 18th to second in the NHL year-on-year. But when a person's vision is at stake, all that takes a back seat.

"With Manny it's not even about hockey," center Ryan Kesler said to the Vancouver Sun after Tuesday's practice at Joe Louis Arena. "It's really about himself and his family. Hockey comes second when it comes to stuff like that."

They also have to get by without Daniel Sedin for a night, as his wife is expecting their third child.

Red Wings -- It wasn't long ago that the Canucks would look at a game against the Wings as a measuring stick. This time, it might be the other way around.

"We are eight points behind them so we have a chance," Nicklas Lidstrom said in the Sun after Tuesday's practice. "But I think it's more of a measuring stick to play against the top team in the League right now. Looking at their record, looking at their specialty teams, they are tops in most categories. That's a team you kind of want to measure yourself against. . .It will be a good test for us."

They'll be resting Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler and Todd Bertuzzi, but coach Mike Babcock conceded they'd all be playing if this was a playoff game.

"They'd be playing," Babcock said in the Sun. "I always tell the guys once the playoffs start I'm the team doctor, but until then we have people to make those professional decisions."

Who's hot -- Good thing Kesler is healthy, as he has a team-high six points, all assists, against Detroit this year. Daniel Sedin's eight-game point streak will carry over another evening, while Henrik's seven-game streak was stopped Friday.

Injury report -- Datsyuk and Franzen (lower body) will each miss a third straight game, while Hudler (upper body) will sit out a fourth. Bertuzzi is also nursing an upper-body injury. Goalie Chris Osgood (sports hernia) may make his return to the nets Wednesday night for his first start against the Canucks since beating them on Dec, 4, 2008. Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa (foot) is expected to play, while Andrew Alberts (wrist), Tanner Glass (upper body) and Alex Edler (back surgery) remain out.

Stat pack -- This year notwithstanding, Detroit still dominates this matchup at home with a 17-4-3 record with a tie since 1997-98. Roberto Luongo gave up nine goals in the first two games against the Wings but stopped 32 shots on Jan. 8 in a 2-1 shootout loss.

Puck drop -- "We have gone in feeling like we're not playing very well and played great and we've gone in feeling like we are playing great and played bad and been out. We have tried it all different ways. Whichever way you get in that particular year you embrace and get on with winning." -- Mike Babcock in the Vancouver Sun on both teams' quest for the Presidents' Trophy and the highest possible seed

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