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Canucks chase ninth straight win vs. Red Wings

by Brian Hunter

RED WINGS (26-10-5) at CANUCKS (27-8-5)

TV -- CBC (HD), FS-D (HD)

Last 10 --
Detroit 6-2-2; Vancouver 9-0-1

Season series -- Third of four meetings this season, with the home team winning the first two matchups. Manny Malhotra scored shorthanded and on the power play in Vancouver’s 6-4 win on Nov. 6, while Henrik Zetterberg's second goal of the night at 2:59 of overtime gave Detroit the 5-4 victory on Dec. 22.

Big story -- It wouldn't be overhyping this game to call it a potential Western Conference Finals preview. They don't make teams any hotter than the Canucks right now, with eight consecutive wins and a franchise-record streak of 15 games earning at least one point (13-0-2 since a 3-2 regulation loss Dec. 5 to the Blues). Meanwhile, the Red Wings aren't exactly slouches, two points back of their opponent Saturday for the Presidents' Trophy lead.

Team Scope:

Red Wing -- Despite never leading during regulation, Detroit prevailed 5-4 over Calgary on Friday night in a shootout. The Red Wings rallied from 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2 deficits to force the game into overtime, aided by defenseman Brian Rafalski's first two goals of the season. Once the game reached the penalty-shot tiebreaker, Jimmy Howard was flawless while Todd Bertuzzi solved Miikka Kiprusoff in the second round to earn the Wings their second win in a row.

"We kept ourselves in it, gave ourselves a chance and we were able to get that fourth one, and battled through overtime and Howie made some big saves on that last power play," Rafalski said. "We found a way to get two points on the road and that's what you have to do."

Canucks -- Following a scoreless first period Friday night, Vancouver made sure the outcome of its game against visiting Edmonton wouldn’t remain in doubt by blitzing the young Oilers with three goals in the first 6:36 of the second en route to a 6-1 victory. Ryan Kesler scored one of them and added two more in the third to complete the second hat trick of his season and career. Cory Schneider improved to 8-0-2 as Roberto Luongo got the night off in anticipation of his start Saturday.

"It's a lot of fun, coming to the rink each day and enjoying the streak that we're on," Kesler said. "It's something that doesn't happen every day, and we're just going to enjoy it."

Who's hot --
Henrik Zetterberg has 5 goals and 8 assists during a nine-game points streak for the Red Wings. Patrick Eaves hadn't played since recording a hat trick on Dec. 29 due to an elbow infection -- he returned with a goal on Friday. Darren Helm has consecutive games with a goal and an assist.

Kesler has 23 goals to rank sixth in the NHL, one behind teammate Daniel Sedin, who scored twice for the Canucks on Friday and has 4 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak. Alexandre Burrows has 1 goal and 4 assists during a three-game points streak.

Injury report --
Detroit lost defenseman Brad Stuart for 4-6 weeks with a broken jaw as the result of a hit in Calgary on Friday. Forward Valtteri Filppula sat out Friday and is day-to-day with a groin injury, while forwards Mike Modano (wrist), Pavel Datsyuk (hand) and Danny Cleary (ankle) are also sidelined. ... Vancouver will be without defenseman Sami Salo (Achilles) and forwards Guillaume Desbiens (hand) and Rick Rypien (personal).

Stat pack -- Rafalski, who played in his 800th NHL game Friday, has 28 points in 30 games this season. ... Daniel Sedin's assist on a third-period goal by Alexander Edler was his 600th career point.

Puck drop -- Schneider explained after Friday's rout of Edmonton exactly why Vancouver has been so difficult to beat.

"One night it's the power play. One night it's a third- or fourth-line guy," he said. "Everyone seems to be chipping in, and on the back end (Luongo) and I are coming up with saves when we need to. Obviously we're scoring a lot of goals, but you've got to make the timely saves to get there."

Still, Detroit figures to provide the best challenge yet during this streak.

"That's a good team coming in here," Kesler said. "We know we'll have to be ready."

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