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Canucks host Blues in home finale before 14-game trip

by Matthew Mankiewich

BLUES (23-21-8) at CANUCKS (32-18-2)

Last 10 -- St. Louis 6-3-1, Vancouver 7-2-1

Season series -- It's the fourth and final meeting between the two, the first two going the Blues' way, the most recent one on Dec. 31 to the Canucks in overtime. The last two meetings were important points in the season for both teams, the Blues win on Dec. 20 sparking a 12-2-2 run by the Canucks since then, the New Year's Eve game coach Andy Murray's last behind the Blues bench.

Big story -- Racking up home wins has been crucial for the Canucks, who are playing their final game at GM Place before leaving on an NHL-record 14-game road trip -- eight before the Olympic break and six after. They won't see home ice again until March 13.

The Blues, four points out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference, want to do something twice they had never done even once before this season -- sweep their way through Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Team scope:

Blues -- As is typical of a middle-of-the-pack team, one night they'll drive you crazy and the next they'll get your hopes up again. Two nights after blowing a three-goal lead to the Ducks, the Blues went to Calgary and made a 2-0 lead stick through sheer grit.

"Guys scored timely goals, guys sacrificing in front of the net blocking shots killing penalties, Cam Janssen fighting twice, sticking up for the guys on the team," goalie Ty Conklin told reporters after the game. "We had big efforts throughout our lineup."

Conklin himself proved to be a lifesaver when the pressure built in the third period and the Blues had trouble clearing the puck out of their own zone.

Canucks -- Losing three of their top four defensemen hasn't hurt the Canucks at all, thanks to the strong play of just about everyone else, especially the Sedin twins -- and not just when they put the puck in the net themselves. Being on the same ice as the two Swedish scoring machines turned out to be a boon for Brad Lukowich against the Sabres Monday night.

Henrik fed Daniel a pass while taking a hit along the boards just inside the blue line, then Daniel backhanded the puck through his legs to a streaking Lukowich, who went top shelf on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller. It was Lukowich's first goal in 111 games, dating back to Nov. 5, 2007, and put the Canucks ahead to stay in a 3-2 win, their fifth straight.

"It was a combination of everything," Lukowich told the Vancouver Sun. "I just kind of remembered a goal about a week ago where they did the same thing. I just put my stick down, screamed like crazy and he basically just laid it up for me. I think it's been almost two years now."

Who's hot -- The Sedins have been tearing up the League over their last 16 games, with Henrik leading the way with 32 points and an NHL-leading 76 overall and Daniel adding 28 in that stretch. Alex Burrows, who rides shotgun with the dynamic duo, has a 12-game points streak, and his plus-27 rating is second in the NHL.

Blues forward David Perron scored the second goal against Calgary to push his point streak to four games, while Patrik Berglund ended a 13-game goal drought.

Injury report -- Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell (concussion) won't be ready to travel with the team as he continues to experience symptoms. Defenseman Sami Salo (groin) skated on his own before practice Tuesday and will accompany the team on the trip. … Blues forward David Backes (upper body) was held out for a third game on Monday but hopes to be ready for Vancouver and Edmonton. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (lower body) has been placed on injured reserve.

Stat pack -- The Sedins may be old hat to their Western Conference opponents, so they really turn it on against befuddled Eastern Conference teams. In eight games where they both played, Henrik has 18 points and Daniel 14, leading to a 9-1-0 record against the East this year. The Blues have managed to contain them a little, allowing five points between them in three games played so far.

Puck drop -- The Canucks need to get this last home game in the win column as there is very little margin for error in the crowded Western Conference -- where the last playoff seed is only eight points behind them. The Blues have been much better on the road than at home and won their first visit to British Columbia.

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