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Canucks host Flames in battle for Northwest lead

by Brian Hunter
FLAMES (25-14-5) at CANUCKS (27-16-1)

Last 10: Calgary 5-4-1; Vancouver 8-1-1

Season series:
Fourth of six meetings. The first three games were all played in Calgary, with the Flames winning twice by 5-3 scores and the Canucks taking the most recent meeting, 5-1 on Dec. 27 behind a Mason Raymond hat trick. Vancouver now hosts the final three regular-season matchups.

Big story: First place in the Northwest Division goes to the winner of Saturday's game, with each team starting the night with 55 points. The Canucks currently hold the tiebreaker by virtue of having two more victories. They've also been the hotter team of late, winning 11 of their last 14 games.

Team Scope:

With a chance to have the Northwest lead all to itself heading into Saturday's showdown, Calgary instead lost its second in a row, falling 3-2 on home ice Friday against Columbus. The Flames found themselves playing catch-up all night, facing an early 1-0 deficit and falling behind 3-1 early in the third. Goals by Mark Giordano and Rene Bourque weren't enough to bring them all the way back.

"The whole night, we didn't take enough shots, didn't create enough shots or enough chances," captain Jarome Iginla said.

Alexandre Burrows might have a few eyes on him as he attempts to notch his third straight hat trick. Burrows became the first Vancouver player in 23 years (Petri Skriko, 1986-87) to score three goals in consecutive games when he victimized Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in a 4-0 win on Thursday. The Canucks have taken four straight, outscoring their opponents 18-7 in the process.

"My linemates (Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin) found me a couple times there and made great plays. It makes my job a lot easier," Burrows said. "Right now I'm just getting shots through and they're finding ways to beat goalies. Obviously it's fun right now."

Who's hot:
Calgary forward Curtis Glencross has three goals and two assists over his last five games. … Burrows has seven goals in Vancouver's last three games after going nine games without scoring one. Henrik Sedin has five goals and 12 assists during an eight-game points streak, while Daniel Sedin has two goals and six assists during a four-game points streak. Mikael Samuelsson has four goals and two assists during a six-game points streak.

Injury report:
Craig Conroy is on injured reserve for the Flames with a foot injury. … Canucks defensemen Sami Salo and Aaron Rome are day-to-day after suffering facial lacerations against the Coyotes. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa (ankle) and forwards Ryan Johnson (foot), Michael Grabner (ankle) and Pavol Demitra (shoulder) are all on injured reserve.

Stat pack:
Vancouver is tied for third in the League, averaging 3.2 goals per game. Henrik Sedin enters Saturday first in the scoring race with 61 points, while defenseman Christian Ehroff tops all players in plus-minus rating at plus-23.

Puck drop:
Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who got the better of Roberto Luongo in their first two matchups this season, didn't make it past the first period in his previous start against the Canucks. He was pulled after giving up four goals and will undoubtedly be looking to make amends.

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