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Canucks-Predators Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Vancouver Canucks (34-21-5) at Nashville Predators (34-19-6).

TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m. EST.

Two nights after moving into a first-place tie in the NHL's tightest division, the Vancouver Canucks look to carry the momentum into their game against the slumping Nashville Predators.

Vancouver's prospects appear good, given the history between the two clubs. The Canucks have 17 wins in 26 meetings all-time against the Predators, including five wins and a tie in the last six contests. The Canucks won the only meeting between the teams this season, 4-3 in Vancouver on Dec. 28.

The Canucks defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1 Tuesday in their first game back after the Olympic break. The victory pulled Vancouver into a tie with the Flames atop the Northwest Division with 73 points, but Calgary has two games in hand.

Colorado is in third place, just one point behind the leaders. The Northwest is the only division in the NHL in which all five teams have winning records.

Markus Naslund and Anson Carter scored goals nine seconds apart in the second period for all the offense Vancouver would need. Goaltender Alex Auld stopped 30 of 31 shots to improve to 26-13-3 on the season.

The Canucks allowed just one goal despite having four defensemen miss the game with injuries.

"You go down the list and everyone stepped up and played beyond what they've been used to in terms of minutes and different situations," said Auld. "(Steve) McCarthy was exceptional, (Bryan) Allen was great playing more of a defensive role, everyone played so well."

Vancouver, which has won four of its last five road games, concludes its three-game road trip Friday at Chicago.

Nashville got shut out in its first contest since the Turin games, losing 3-0 Wednesday at Chicago. The Predators managed just 20 shots on goal, and while coach Barry Trotz stopped short of saying his team was tired, he was not happy with the effort.

"I don't think our key guys were strong tonight," Trotz said. "Our key guys carry the team and they're going to have to be stronger for us to be successful. Our whole core group has to step up and do a better job."

Four Predators skaters who played in the Olympics - Czechs Martin Erat and Marek Zidlicky, Russian Danny Markov, and Finn Kimmo Timonen - played Wednesday.

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who helped the Czech Republic win a bronze medal, did not play in Chicago. Chris Mason started and made 30 saves in Vokoun's place.

The Predators have lost seven of their last 10 games, dropping them nine points behind first-place Detroit in the Central Division.

STANDINGS: Canucks - 73 points, 1st place (tied), Northwest Division. Predators - 74 points, 2nd place, 9 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Naslund, 27 goals and 61 points; Henrik Sedin, 43 assists; Todd Bertuzzi, 98 PIM. Predators - Steve Sullivan, 26 goals; Paul Kariya, 39 assists and 58 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 111 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Canucks - Power play: 18.6 percent (73 for 393), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (308 for 379), 18th. Predators - Power play: 18.4 percent (69 for 374), 11th. Penalty killing: 85.5 percent (319 for 373), 4th.

GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Auld (26-16-3, 0 SO, 2.82 GAA); Maxime Ouellet (0-2-1, 0, 3.24). Predators - Vokoun (28-14-5, 2, 2.64); Mason (5-4-1, 0, 3.23).

SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 28, 2005; Canucks, 4-3. At Vancouver, British Columbia, Ed Jovanovski had a goal and two assists, and eight Canucks scored at least one point.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canucks - 14-16-2 on the road; Predators - 22-6-1 at home.

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