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Canucks, minus Kesler, visit Capitals

by Brian Hunter

CANUCKS (30-28-10) at CAPITALS (30-27-10)


Last 10: Vancouver 3-6-1; Washington 5-4-1

Season series: This is the second and final game between the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals. Daniel Sedin had a goal and an assist in the Canucks' 3-2 victory at Rogers Arena on Oct. 28.

Big story: These days, even when the Canucks win they seem to lose. A critical 3-2 shootout victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday to begin a four-game road trip was marred by the loss of forward Ryan Kesler to an injured right knee. Coach John Tortorella said Friday that Kesler is expected to miss "a couple of weeks."

Team Scope:

Canucks: The NHL's 29th-ranked offense desperately needed to get some production from forward Alexandre Burrows. His first two goals of the season -- in his 36th game -- allowed the Canucks to erase a pair of deficits against the Jets before Chris Higgins scored the deciding goal in the shootout. Eddie Lack bounced back from a horrific third period in the collapse against the New York Islanders on Monday and stopped 32 shots.

The Canucks pulled within four points of the Dallas Stars for the second wild-card spot, but the Stars have three games in hand. Vancouver has 14 games remaining, fewest in the League.

"It was a really important game for me, for sure," Lack said in the Vancouver Sun. "I just needed a big bounce-back game and I'm sure happy that we got the win. After they scored to make it 2-1 in the third, I had to come up with a couple of good saves and I did. So obviously it was a really big relief for myself."

Capitals: The situation in Washington is also tenuous following a home-and-home sweep earlier this week at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals sit three points outside a wild-card spot and the teams they're battling with all have a game or two in hand. Washington has 15 games left.

"There's definitely a higher sense of urgency in the room," rookie defenseman Connor Carrick said in the Washington Post. "Guys are saying it: We need to be more desperate, we need to play harder, earn that bounce. That's the message in the room, but we've got to make it happen."

Jaroslav Halak has started the past three games in goal, winning one but stopping 80 of 87 shots (.920 save percentage). Coach Adam Oates is still trying to find the right linemates for forward Dustin Penner, who doesn't have a point in five games since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks.

Who's hot: Burrows had a game-high six shots and five hits for the Canucks in addition to his first multi-goal effort since March 16, 2013. … Although it came up empty on its only two opportunities Tuesday, the Capitals' power play is clicking at a 34.6 percent success rate (9-for-26) in the past eight games.

Injury report: Vancouver was without forward Brad Richardson (undisclosed) on Wednesday, in addition to defenseman Andrew Alberts (concussion) and forward Daniel Sedin (hamstring), both of whom are on injured reserve. Kesler is also out. … Washington defenseman John Erskine (upper body) and forward Brooks Laich (groin) are day-to-day. Forwards Aaron Volpatti (upper body) and Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) are on injured reserve. Grabovski skated prior to practice Thursday.

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