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Blue Jackets return home to face Canucks

by Mike Battaglino /

CANUCKS (5-3-1) at BLUE JACKETS (2-5-0)


Season series: This is the first of two games between former Western Conference rivals. Last season, each of the three low-scoring games needed extra time, with the Vancouver Canucks winning two, including 1-0 in a shootout March 26.

Big story: Vancouver, after a 4-3 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon, has a point in the first three games (2-0-1) of a seven-game eastern road trip. Columbus, which lost 4-1 at the Washington Capitals, starts a string of eight of nine games at home after losing four in a row.

"The guys are excited to get home, I think it's been a frustrating road trip, I would say," Blue Jackets forward Blake Comeau told the team website. "So we're excited; we're [going to] feed off the crowd. We know that Vancouver played last night like us, so we're going to be ready right off the hop. We know how important this game is for us."

Team Scope:

Canucks: To a man, Vancouver seemed very pleased with its performance against Pittsburgh at Consol Energy Center. It continued strong play on the road that followed two home losses in which the Canucks were outscored 8-2 by the San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens.

"The most important part is our quickness," coach John Tortorella told the team website. "I think we're playing quick, in transition. ... I think they feel good about themselves and I think they're allowing themselves to play."

Forward Zack Kassian, who missed the first five games due to a preseason suspension, scored his first goal of the season Saturday playing most of the time with wing David Booth. Ryan Kesler skated with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin.

"That was my fourth game and I'm feeling better each game," Kassian said. "I definitely have more, but it's coming. I feel that definitely helps, scoring a goal and getting that out of the way, but I'm feeling better each and every game and it's time to keep it going."

Blue Jackets: To a man, Columbus seemed very disappointed with its performance against Washington at Verizon Center. The start is too similar to the point-squandering 2-5-1 beginning to last season, which ended one shy of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference.

"[There's] a lot to think about on the plane ride home," coach Todd Richards said. "The good thing about being an athlete is you have to prove yourself and you get the opportunities to prove yourself over again.

"This is really the same group that we had last year, mostly, and they found ways. We'll get a feel for where this team is at tomorrow."

Rookie defenseman Ryan Murray, who encountered John Tavares, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Alex Ovechkin on his first NHL road trip, will find talented Vancouver forwards waiting at Nationwide Arena.

"They've got a lot of good players ... everybody does," Murray said. "Another fast team, another fast, skilled team. So just taking time and space away, just get on guys quick and make sure that [you] eliminate pucks and eliminating bodies at all times."

Who's hot: Canucks defensemen Kevin Bieksa had a three-assist game Saturday, his first since Nov. 2, 2010. Henrik Sedin has one goal and four assists during a four-game point streak. … Blue Jackets forward Marian Gaborik returned from the flu with an assist Saturday, giving him five points in his past four games.

Injury report: Canucks forward Jordan Schroeder left the game Saturday with an undisclosed injury. Tortorella did not have an update afterward. Forward Alexandre Burrows (foot) is out. … Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno (personal reasons) is not with the team. Forward Matt Calvert (abdomen) is on injured reserve.

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