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Canucks-Flames Preview

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Canucks-Flames Preview

GAME: Vancouver Canucks (30-18-5) at Calgary Flames (30-16-7).

TIME: Friday, 9 p.m. EST.

Two points separate the first-place Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks in the Northwest Division. The slimmest of margins has separated them in all five meetings this season.

The Canucks try to tie the Flames atop the division as this entertaining season series continues.

One reason Vancouver trails Calgary is because it lost the first four matchups this season between the teams, three by one goal and one in a shootout. The teams needed overtime to settle their most recent meeting and the Canucks finally beat the Flames, 4-3 on Jan. 7.

Vancouver enters this contest winding down a seven-game road swing, which ends Saturday in Edmonton. The Canucks lost the first three games of the trip before winning the last two, beating Colorado 4-3 in a shootout last Saturday and defeating Phoenix 7-4 on Tuesday.

Markus Naslund returned Tuesday after a sore groin forced him to miss a game for the first time this season, and he was one of seven Canucks to score in the victory.

"It wasn't the prettiest of games," said Naslund, whose lingering injury will keep him off Sweden's Olympic team. "But nevertheless we'll take the two points."

Calgary has lost two straight games in shootouts, falling 3-2 at St. Louis on Monday and returning home from a five-game road swing to lose 2-1 to Columbus on Wednesday.

The Flames will have a pair of new faces on their bench for this matchup.

They acquired forward Mike Leclerc and goalie Brian Boucher from Phoenix on Wednesday for left wing Steve Reinprecht and goalie Phil Sauve.

Boucher was 3-6-0 with a 3.87 goals against average in 11 games a the Coyotes backup. Leclerc has nine goals and 12 assists in 35 games this season.

"We're around the same age," Flames captain Jarome Iginla, 29, said of Leclerc. "He's a good power forward ... He can get really hot, too, which is a good thing."

STANDINGS: Canucks - 65 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Northwest Division. Flames - 67 points, 1st place, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Naslund, 24 goals and 55 points; Henrik Sedin, 38 assists; Todd Bertuzzi, 88 PIM. Flames - Iginla, 24 goals and 41 points; Dion Phaneuf, 21 assists; Darren McCarty, 80 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 1): Canucks - Power play: 19.0 percent (66 for 347), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.0 percent (269 for 332), 19th. Flames - Power play: 17.4 percent (55 for 316), 16th. Penalty killing: 82.5 percent (268 for 325), 14th.

GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Alex Auld (22-13-3, 0 SO, 2.81 GAA); Maxime Ouellet (0-2-1, 4.00). Flames - Miikka Kiprusoff (27-13-7, 6, 2.22); Boucher (3-6-0, 3.87).

SEASON SERIES: Flames, 4-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 7; Canucks, 4-3, OT. At Vancouver, British Columbia, Sami Salo's second goal with 30 seconds to play pushed the game into overtime and Brendan Morrison scored the game-winner.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canucks - 12-15-2 on the road; Flames - 18-4-3 at home.


Associated Press

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