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Canucks look to stay hot, solve Canadiens

by Tal Pinchevsky /
CANUCKS (16-10-1) at CANADIENS (11-11-6)


Last 10:
Vancouver 8-2-0; Montreal 3-4-3

Season series:
This is the first of two meetings this season between the two Canadian franchises. Last season, Montreal took both meetings against Vancouver despite being outshot 73-54. They can credit those wins to Carey Price, who allowed just two Canucks goals in the two games.

Big story:
The Canucks are among the League's hottest teams as they begin a five-game road trip Thursday night. Vancouver has won seven of its last eight games, including the last two by a combined score of 11-1 over Northwest Division rivals Calgary and Colorado. The Canadiens, meanwhile, have two regulation wins in their last 10 games and salvaged a 1-1-1 West Coast road trip with a win in Los Angeles before falling to Columbus on Tuesday night.

Team Scope:

Vancouver's five-game win streak to end November was halted by a 6-5 loss to the Predators on Dec. 1 that saw the return of Roberto Luongo from injury. In the two games since, they've unleashed on two of their division rivals. After scoring five unanswered goals in a 5-1 win over Calgary on Sunday, the Canucks hosted the Avalanche.

Tuesday night against Colorado, Daniel Sedin registered his first hat trick of the season and the Canucks scored six goals on just 23 shots in a 6-0 victory. Sedin had previously gone eight games without scoring. Luongo had to leave the game after sustaining an injury. He and Cory Schneider still combined for the 33-save shutout.

Following a 4-1 loss in Anaheim and a 4-3 shootout loss in San Jose, Montreal managed to salvage its California road trip with a 2-1 win in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon. In their first game back in Montreal following the three-game trip, the Canadiens took on the Blue Jackets, a team they had beaten just once in the last four seasons. Tuesday's game was the first in a stretch that would see the Canadiens play five of their next six games at home before embarking on a season-long six-game road trip to end 2011.

Montreal twice managed to tie the score against Columbus with goals late in the period, including Brian Gionta's game-tying marker with 1:21 remaining in regulation. Overtime decided nothing and Rick Nash scored the deciding shootout goal as Curtis Sanford, who spent last season on the Canadiens' AHL team in Hamilton, stopped all three Montreal shooters. While the Habs secured a point in the 3-2 loss, they fired only 20 shots at Sanford, including a mere four in the second period.

Who's hot:
Henrik Sedin has 6 points on his current six-game points streak while brother Daniel has 8 points on his current four-game stretch. Winger Jannik Hansen has 4 goals on his current three-game goal streak. … For Montreal, Andrei Kostitsyn has 4 points in his last four games while Mike Cammalleri has 3 points in his last three games.

Injury report:
The Canucks' 6-0 win against Colorado came at a cost. Luongo (neck), David Booth (knee), and Kevin Bieksa (head) were all hurt in the game. Chris Higgins is doubtful against Montreal with a staph infection. … Andrei Markov underwent another knee operation last week and is likely out through December, while Ryan White (hernia surgery), Jaroslav Spacek (upper body), Chris Campoli (leg), and Scott Gomez (groin) are all on IR for Montreal.

Stat pack: Despite ranking fourth in goals last season and second in points this season, Daniel Sedin's hat trick against Colorado was a rare occurrence. It was his first three-goal night since Apr 10, 2010. In the 20 months between hat tricks, Sedin had nine two-goal games.

Puck drop: The Montreal power play may want to take note of Vancouver's play with the man advantage. Despite owning one of the League's top power-play units over the previous two seasons, Montreal has a single goal with the man advantage in their last eight games and their 11.8 percent efficiency ranks 27th overall. The Canucks, meanwhile, boast the League's top-ranked power-play efficiency at 25.9 percent, 3.8 percent higher than second-place Toronto. If they can maintain that pace, the Canucks will have the best power-play unit since the 1995-96 Penguins, who scored at a 26.0 percent clip.

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