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Canucks aim to end skid as they face Maple Leafs

by Brian Hunter

CANUCKS (27-23-9) at MAPLE LEAFS (31-22-6)


Last 10: Vancouver 3-7-0; Toronto 7-2-1

Season series: This is the second and final game between the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs. Roberto Luongo stopped all 21 shots he faced when the Canucks blanked the Maple Leafs 4-0 at Rogers Arena on Nov. 2. Vancouver has won 11 in a row against Toronto; the Maple Leafs' last victory against the Canucks came on Nov. 24, 2003.

Big story: Vancouver has lost six in a row and it's going to be a battle down the stretch to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. The Canucks can give themselves something to feel good about heading into the Olympic break with a win Saturday.

Team Scope:

Canucks: On the bright side for Vancouver, its first three games out of the break (including the 2014 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic) and 13 of its final 22 will be at home. That next home game is a long ways away at the moment, though, and the Canucks must first try to salvage the finale of a five-game road trip that's seen them outscored 14-6 to this point, including a 5-2 loss Thursday to the Montreal Canadiens. They've been outscored 23-10 during their current skid.

Injuries have been a factor, as the defense corps is decimated and center Henrik Sedin is back on the shelf with a lingering rib issue that will keep him out through the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But the Canucks are fighting to stay positive.

"It's a challenge, you know," Luongo said in the Vancouver Sun. "But the only way we're going to get out of this is to keep our head high and work. If we feel sorry for ourselves, it's just going to get worse."

Maple Leafs: Toronto will play the bulk of its games after the break on the road. The Maple Leafs have only nine post-Olympic games at Air Canada Centre, where they are 20-10-1 and have the third-most home wins in the Eastern Conference.

A win Saturday could vault the Maple Leafs into second place in the Atlantic Division. They inched closer to the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning by beating them 4-1 in Tampa on Thursday, with Jonathan Bernier stellar again in a 33-save effort.

"Huge win," defenseman Tim Gleason said in the Toronto Sun. "We had a big game, a four-point game. We just have to get that game on Saturday because no one cares about (this one) now."

Who's hot: Canucks defenseman Raphael Diaz has a goal and an assist in his first two games since being acquired from the Canadiens. … Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak has three goals in the past four games. Bernier has the seventh-best save percentage in the League at .926.

Injury report: In addition to Sedin, out of the lineup for Vancouver are defensemen Andrew Alberts (concussion), Christopher Tanev (hand), Kevin Bieksa (foot) and Yannick Weber (upper body) and forward Mike Santorelli (shoulder). Defenseman Dan Hamhuis (undisclosed) will return after missing two games. … Toronto forwards Dave Bolland (ankle), Trevor Smith (hand) and Carter Ashton (hand) are on injured reserve.

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