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Blue Jackets have tough task in high-flying Canucks

by John McGourty
BLUE JACKETS (15-19-9) at CANUCKS (25-16-1)

Last 10 -- Columbus 1-6-3; Vancouver 7-2-1

Season series --
This is the second meeting of the teams this year. The Blue Jackets won, 5-3, in Vancouver on Oct. 5 when second-period goals by Kristian Huselius, Rostislav Klesla and the now-departed Nikita Filatov chased Roberto Luongo from the net. The teams meet again in Columbus on Feb. 12 and March 2.

Big story --
This game shapes up as a mismatch. The Blue Jackets are in a tailspin and the Canucks are playing very well. Columbus will have a tough time making the playoffs from 14th place in the West while Vancouver is bearing down on the Northwest Division lead. Only two teams have worse road records than the Blue Jackets while only the Blackhawks have won more home games than the Canucks.
Team Scope:

Blue Jackets -- The Blue Jackets have won only one of their past 10 games, have lost 12 of their past 13 games and 20 of 23 (3-13-7). The Blue Jackets have won only 10 of 16 games when leading after the second period and their .625 winning percentage is the League's worst in that category. Columbus gets in trouble early and can't get out. They are fourth-worst in allowing 40 first-period goals and fourth-worst in allowing 49 second-period goals. They have won only once in 17 games when trailing after two periods. Rick Nash is tied for 10th with 19 goals but that is about the only bright spot this season.

Canucks -- The Canucks' 7-2-1 record in their past 10 games makes them the fourth-hottest team in the League and they picked up seven of eight points by going 3-0-1 on their recent road trip. Only three points out of first place in the Northwest Division, they play nine of their next 11 games at home. Their plus-20 goals differential is tied for third-best in the NHL. Only two teams have scored more than their 74 home goals and they lead with 25 home power-play goals.

Who's hot -- Vancouver center Ryan Kesler has two goals and five points in five games. Left wing Daniel Sedin has four goals and 10 points in six games. Right wing Mikael Samuelsson has two goals and four points in four games. Luongo is 5-0-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in the past six games.

Columbus left wing Huselius had a goal and an assist in his last game. Goalie Steve Mason has a 1.28 GAA and .958 save percentage in his last three games.

Injury report --
Klesla has missed 17 games for the Blue Jackets with a torn groin and is due back in mid-month. Right wing Derek Dorsett has missed 11 games since breaking his hand Dec. 12, his third game back after missing nine games with a concussion. He's due back in mid-month. Defenseman Marc Methot has missed five games with an upper-body injury and his return is indefinite. Right wing Jared Boll and left wing Alexandre Picard were hurt in Saturday's game. Boll, who has a hand injury, may play Tuesday. Picard has a lower-body injury and is doubtful.

Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa suffered cut tendons above his ankle last Tuesday against Phoenix, underwent surgery and is expected to miss at least three months. Center Ryan Johnson has missed five games with a foot injury and his return is indefinite. Forward Michael Grabner missed 21 games with an ankle injury and is on an AHL conditioning assignment. Center Pavol Demitra had shoulder surgery in September and has not played this season. He hopes to suit up Jan. 11 against Nashville to prepare to play for Slovakia in the Olympics.

Stat pack --
Kesler ranks 14th in the NHL in winning 55.3 percent of his faceoffs and he's second with 50 takeaways. … Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff leads the NHL at plus-21. … Henrik Sedin is tied for 11th at plus-14. … Boll ranks fifth with 97 penalty minutes and his 13 majors are second in the NHL. … Columbus is third with nine overtime losses.

Puck Drop --
Vancouver's Henrik Sedin ranks second in NHL scoring with 19 goals and 55 points. He set career highs last year with 22 goals and 82 points but is on pace for 37 goals and 108 points.

"We've worked extremely hard. We're confident, but you get confidence from hard work and from knowing you're prepared. It doesn't matter if you're in an office or it's hockey, if you're well-prepared you're going to do a good job and you're going to be confident," Sedin told the Vancouver Province this week.

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