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Canucks face Flames to finish out regular season

by Deborah Francisco
CANUCKS (53-19-9) at FLAMES (41-29-11)

TV -- CBC (HD)

Last 10 --
Vancouver 7-3-0; Calgary 5-3-2

Season series --
In five regular-season meetings between these Northwest Division rivals so far this season, the Canucks lead the series with four victories. The Flames' lone victory in the series was a 4-3 shootout win on Feb. 22. Daniel Sedin scored a pair of goals in the most recent meeting between these clubs on March 12 as the Canucks prevailed, 4-3. Saturday's contest will be the regular season finale for both teams.

Big story -- Both squads have reason to celebrate as they go into their last regular season game of 2010-2011 on Saturday night, although the game will have no implications in the overall League standings. In Vancouver, the general attitude is jovial as the Canucks managed to capture their first ever Presidents' Trophy in their 40th anniversary season. Although the Flames will miss the playoffs by just one or two points, the franchise executed a remarkable mid-season turnaround that included a memorable victory in the Heritage Classic on Feb. 20.

Team Scope:

Canucks -- Vancouver made a statement on Thursday night in its final home game of the season with a thrilling 5-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild. After dropping their last two games, the Canucks came out strong in that contest and Ryan Kesler notched a goal in each period to complete his third career hat trick and reach 40 goals for the season.

"It's a funny game that way," Kesler said, "you're going to get lucky sometimes and tonight I've got to give credit to Daniel and Henrik [Sedin] on the first one and then [Chris] Higgins, he found me wide-open with speed."

Daniel Sedin picked up two assists in that game to move five points ahead of Anaheim’s Corey Perry in the Art Ross trophy race.

Roberto Luongo made 29 saves to notch his 55th career shutout. Luongo hasn’t given up more than three goals in regulation in his last 33 starts.

Flames -- Although the Flames were disappointed to be edged out of playoff contention on Wednesday night as both Chicago and Dallas picked up enough points to send them packing, they went out with class in a 6-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

The contest featured a hat trick from captain Jarome Iginla as well as dazzling goals from Alex Tanguay, Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross after a scoreless first period.

"It's tough. I really thought we were going to find a way to sneak in," said Iginla, who reached the 40-goal mark for the fourth time in his career.

In spite of the disappointing news, the Flames remained optimistic about their remarkable turnaround. After starting the season with a record of 17-18-3 through the month of December, Calgary improved to a record of 41-29-11.

"We've come a long ways as a team," Iginla said. "We definitely improved and we're going to try and finish on the right now. We're playing at home and trying to get to 95."

"It's tough to not make playoffs but it's a pretty good feeling the last few months in the room," goalie Miikka Kiprusoff said.

Who's hot -- Kesler and Iginla each notched a hat trick this week.

Injury report --
Alex Edler returned to the Canucks lineup after missing 31 games following back surgery and Dan Hamhuis participated in Canucks morning skate on Thursday for the first time since suffering a concussion six games ago. Defenseman Andrew Alberts (broken wrist) is practicing and may be back early in the playoffs, however Chris Tanev (upper body) and Lee Sweatt (broken foot) remain out indefinitely. … The Flames are without Niklas Hagman (concussion), David Moss (ankle) and Brendan Morrison (knee).

Stat pack -- On Wednesday night, Kiprusoff tied Mike Vernon for the Flames' franchise record for most wins by a goaltender with victory No. 262. He has the chance to take possession of that record with a win on Saturday if he starts for the Flames, although the coaching staff has not revealed yet who will start.

Puck drop -- "We want to finish this off the right way," Calgary coach Brett Sutter said. "We've been a pretty determined and resilient team here the last three months. Absolutely, we want to win (Saturday) night or we want to play well to give ourselves a chance to succeed, no different than we have been."

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