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Canucks battle Predators for playoff positioning

by Brian Hunter
PREDATORS (26-16-3) at CANUCKS (27-16-2)

Last 10: Nashville 5-5-0; Vancouver 7-1-2

Season series: Third of four meetings this season, with each team having won once on its home ice. Martin Erat recorded the hat trick for Nashville in a 4-2 win at the Sommet Center on Dec. 8. Two weeks later, Vancouver got its revenge as Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin each had a goal and two assists to spark a 4-1 win at GM Place.

Big story:
Each team is coming off a 3-2 loss on Saturday, though the Canucks got a point out of their shootout loss against Northwest Division rival Calgary. They start play Monday one point behind the idle Flames for first place. The Predators, meanwhile, waited a little too long to start their comeback against Anaheim. They scored twice in the third period but still fell to the Ducks.

Team Scope:

Erat and Patric Hornqvist have been the go-to guys for Nashville this season, and they led the third-period rally on Saturday. Hornqvist's goal was his team-leading 17th of the season, while Erat returned from a knee injury that cost him 10 days and scored his 15th -- and 11th in 14 games. Although they got Erat back, the Predators did have to play without captain Jason Arnott, who missed the game with an upper-body injury. Falling behind 3-0 after two periods proved too much to overcome.

"We showed up in the third period, but we pretty much gave away two points," goalie Pekka Rinne said. "We can't start like this every single game."

Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff are among the elite goaltenders in the League today, but neither one had much success when Saturday's game between Vancouver and Calgary went to a shootout. Kiprusoff only stopped one of three attempts in the penalty-shot tiebreaker, but the Flames beat the Canucks when Luongo couldn't stop any. Jamie Lundmark's goal in the third round was the winner.

"We're disappointed with the loss obviously, but we found a way to get it to overtime," Luongo said. "So the game was right there for us."

Who's hot:
Hornqvist has scored four times during a three-game goals streak and 11 in his last 13 games. With Erat back, the Predators have their 1-2 punch intact again. Steve Sullivan is no slouch, either, with a goal and four assists during a four-game points streak. Sullivan and J.P. Dumont, who has a goal and two assists in his last two games, lead the team with 29 points.

Henrik Sedin assisted on a goal against the Flames, extending his points streak to nine games (five goals, 13 assists). Daniel Sedin scored a goal and has a five-game points streak (three goals, six assists). Mikael Samuelsson has goals in three straight and points in seven straight (five goals, two assists). Alexandre Burrows, who had hat tricks in consecutive games last week, has a five-game points streak (seven goals, two assists).

Injury report:
Arnott is likely to miss another game for Nashville while forward Joel Ward (wrist) and defenseman Francis Bouillon (flu-like symptoms) are day-to-day. Forwards Jordin Tootoo (foot) and Jerred Smithson (hand) are on injured reserve.

Vancouver defensemen Aaron Rome and Sami Salo are day-to-day with facial lacerations. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa (ankle) and forwards Ryan Johnson (foot), Michael Grabner (ankle) and Pavol Demitra (shoulder) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack:
The Predators have held Samuelsson without a point in six of his last seven games against them. … The Canucks haven't lost in regulation since Dec. 20 against St. Louis, going 7-0-2 since.

Puck drop:
Nashville has a big week ahead with games in Edmonton on Tuesday and Calgary on Friday. The Predators, who sit seventh in the Western Conference as play starts Monday, could pass several teams -- including the Canucks -- and find themselves as high as fourth by night's end with a victory.

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