Every loss at this point in the season is another missed opportunity for both the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Each club looks to bounce back from its most recent defeat when the teams meet for the final time in 2007-08 on Friday night in Vancouver.
The Canucks (32-22-9) lost 3-2 in a shootout at home to Colorado on Wednesday to snap their season-high four-game winning streak. Though the loss dropped Vancouver to 2-4 in shootouts this month, it earned at least one point in a seventh straight game to stay one ahead of Colorado and Nashville and in seventh place in the crowded Western Conference playoff race.
"It's definitely a tough one," Vancouver captain Markus Naslund said. "I guess we can try to learn form those last mistakes and keep moving ahead. I think the effort is there, and we're playing a pretty strong team game right now."
|The Blue Jackets and Canucks will get together for the last time in the regular season as the Western Conference-opponents face off in Vancouver tonight. Columbus can even the season-series at two with a win. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
Columbus (29-27-9), meanwhile, fell short in an attempt for its third straight victory by losing 4-2 at home to San Jose on Wednesday. The Blue Jackets fell to 6-26-5 when scoring two or fewer goals.
While Vancouver is already in a position to make the playoffs, the Blue Jackets - five points back of the eighth and final spot - need a strong finishing stretch to reach the postseason for the first time ever. That means giving a better effort than Wednesday when they were outshot 32-19.
"As the game went on, we were devoid of emotion," said Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team has lost three of its last five contests. "We're not going to win games playing the way we did."
Columbus will be in for another challenge Friday. The Canucks are 10-2-1 against the Blue Jackets all-time at home, winning seven times by one or two goals.
Vancouver looks to regain its offensive punch as it tries for a third win in four tries against Columbus this season. Mason Raymond and Alex Burrows scored Wednesday for the Canucks, who were held to fewer than three goals for the first time in seven games.
The Canucks averaged 3.5 goals in its previous six contests prior to Wednesday's loss. Raymond, meanwhile, has two goals in his last three games.
"Our guys are competitors they want to win and they don't look for excuses," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "That's why we compete hard."
Roberto Luongo made 24 saves against Colorado and looks to bounce back Friday. Though Luongo is 5-3-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average versus the Blue Jackets, he's lost three of his last four starts against Columbus.
Columbus scored twice in the first period on Luongo in its 3-2 win home win over Vancouver on Jan. 15 in the teams' most recent meeting.
On Wednesday, David Vyborny had two goals to end his 24-game scoring drought for the Blue Jackets, who played their first game since trading captain Adam Foote and veteran Sergei Fedorov on Tuesday.
Columbus' Pascal Leclaire made 28 saves Wednesday but lost in his first start since recording his NHL-leading ninth shutout in a 3-0 win at Montreal on Saturday. Leclaire, who is 22-14-4 with a 2.17 GAA, won for the first time in six starts versus Vancouver last month.