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At the Rink: Jets at Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Something has to give when the slumping Winnipeg Jets play the struggling Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, with each trying to steady their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoff race.

Vancouver can't score and the Jets can't defend lately, leaving them three points apart in the final two Western Conference wild-card spots with the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings three points behind the Canucks and six back of Winnipeg.

"A little bit similar to us," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said of the Jets. "It seems like they are finding ways that just different little things are getting them every night, but they are a real good hockey team."

The little things hurting the Canucks and Jets are different.

Winnipeg has lost four straight since the All-Star break and can't keep the puck out of its own net, especially shorthanded. The Jets have given up 20 goals in those losses, eight on opposition power plays.

The Canucks have struggled to score while losing three of their past four games, and the power play is a big part of the problem. It scored twice in a 5-2 win against the last-place Buffalo Sabres on Friday but has been blanked in five of the past six games and needs to be better against the Jets, who lead the NHL with 740 penalty minutes but are tied for 15th on the penalty kill at 81.2 percent after the recent funk.

"We have to score," forward Alexandre Burrows said of the power play. "The game we won, we scored two and that's the difference. You have to be good on special teams to win in this League."

You also have to be able to keep the puck out of your own net, and the Jets haven't been able to do that since the All-Star break.

Rookie goaltender Michael Hutchinson came out of the break near the top of the NHL in save percentage, but it has fallen to .924 while he's lost his past three games. Hutchinson was pulled after allowing four goals on 23 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday.

Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped all four shots in relief of Hutchinson, will start against the Canucks, his first since giving up four goals on 29 shots against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 27.

"It's not our goaltending," Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd said of the recent defensive problems. "It's that quickness. We are a team that plays an aggressive style of game, and when that second guy is late or not there and you are off a little bit, you are creating odd-man rushes usually the other way. We need to be in sync in terms of how we forecheck and how we are aggressive and we'll be all right."

Ladd stressed the need to remain aggressive anyway.

"Sitting back is not our game," Ladd said. "We're a team that is fast, in your face and has to be all five guys at once."

The Canucks will also make a change in goal. Eddie Lack will play for the first time since a 5-1 road loss against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 13. Ryan Miller started a season-high seven straight games, but surrendered admittedly soft goals in two of his past three.

"I try not to think too much, but when it goes two or three weeks in between starts you get to think a little bit," Lack said. "To be honest, right now I am just happy to get back in the groove of things."

Here are the projected lineups:


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik

Evander Kane - Adam Lowry - Chris Thorburn

TJ Galiardi - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso

Toby Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien

Ben Chiarot - Zach Bogosian

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Adam Pardy, Paul Postma

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Matt Halischuk (lower body), Jay Harrison (upper body)


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata

Chris Higgins - Linden Vey - Alexandre Burrows

Shawn Matthias - Nick Bonino - Jannik Hansen

Ronalds Kenins - Bo Horvat - Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Luca Sbisa

Ryan Stanton - Adam Clendening

Eddie Lack

Ryan Miller

Scratched: Zack Kassian, Yannick Weber

Injured: Frank Corrado (illness), Kevin Bieksa (broken hand), Brad Richardson (lower body)

Status update: Corrado left the morning skate early Tuesday and isn't expected to play. "I don't think he's feeling great, so he'll probably be doubtful," Desjardins said. Rather than replace Corrado with another right-shot defenseman in Weber, however, it appears Desjardins will shake up his bottom two pairings. Stanton will come back into the lineup after four games as a healthy scratch and play with recently acquired Clendening, re-uniting a pairing that played most the 2012-13 season together with the Chicago Blackhawks' American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. And left-shot defenseman Sbisa will move to the right side to take Corrado's spot alongside Hamhuis despite the fact they've combined for a 38.9 percent Corsi-for possession rating in almost 95 minutes together, well below their numbers with different partners. "There is a reason why lefties play the left side, it's easier," Sbisa said. "A lot of plays happen on your backhand, so you have to feel comfortable but I'm not afraid to play the right side and I'm just excited to be back with (Hamhuis). He's as steady as they come." … Kassian will be a healthy scratch for a second straight game in favor of Kenins, a Latvian rookie who scored his first NHL goal in his second game against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. … Jets coach Paul Maurice did not speak to the media after an optional morning skate that included only Hutchinson and the two scratches, but isn't expected to change his lineup other than the starting goaltender. Maurice will meet with the media prior to the game.

Who's hot: Ladd has one goal and three assists in his past two games and is excited to play in front of family and friends in his hometown on Tuesday. "I had breakfast with my grandpa, who is 96," Ladd said. "I don't get to do that very often, so it's nice." … Canucks center Henrik Sedin has three assists in his past two games and is the only Vancouver player with more than two points in the past three.

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