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Predators face Canucks with an eye on standings

Nashville can get within two points of third-place Chicago in Central Division

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com Correspondent

CANUCKS (27-33-12) at PREDATORS (37-23-13)

TV: 8 p.m. ET; SN360, FS-TN, NHL.TV

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators will try to pull within two points of the Chicago Blackhawks for third place in the Central Division when they host the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.

The Predators have 87 points and are in the first wild card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference. They are four points behind the Blackhawks, who are idle Thursday.

Nashville is 12-2-5 in its past 19 games but the players still feel like there is room for improvement in their game.

"An 82-game season is a process," Predators forward Ryan Johansen said. "Obviously you want to be playing the best hockey you can, but it's a very difficult League and there's a lot of great teams and great players on them that can make it pretty challenging every night. We've still got a little chunk of games here to go where we want to polish up our game."

Canucks forward Daniel Sedin likely will play Thursday after taking part in an optional morning skate. He had left practice early Wednesday because of a back problem.

"I get this a few times a year," Sedin said. "My back locks up but it usually goes away after a day or two and this morning felt good."

The Canucks could get a few more injured players back against the Predators. Forward Jannik Hansen will return after missing 11 games because of a rib injury and will join Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the top line. Forward Sven Baertschi is expected to return to play after sustaining an injury blocking a shot during a 2-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

"I think now we're getting some healthy bodies back," Sedin said. "[Forward Derek Dorsett] too. I think it's going to make each line better to get guys back to spots where they can succeed. I think that's been a big problem. We've been, I think, a little bit too young. A lot of young guys instead of maybe having two or three young guys. It's been tough for all of us I think. But we're starting to get a little bit more healthy."

Here are the projected lineups:

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Jake Virtanen

Alexandre Burrows - Linden Vey - Emerson Etem

Derek Dorsett - Jared McCann - Chris Higgins

Ben Hutton - Alex Biega

Dan Hamhuis - Nikita Tryamkin

Matt Bartkowski - Yannick Weber

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

Injured: Alexander Edler (leg), Luca Sbisa (upper body), Brandon Prust (ankle), Radim Vrbata (knee), Brandon Sutter (jaw), Christopher Tanev (back), Markus Granlund (upper body)

Scratched: Andrey Pedan, Alexandre Grenier, Brendan Gaunce

PREDATORS

Calle Jarnkrok - Ryan Johansen - James Neal

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Viktor Arvidsson

Eric Nystrom - Colton Sissons - Miikka Salomaki

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Petter Granberg

Barret Jackman - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Injured: Paul Gaustad (upper body), Gabriel Bourque (upper body), Anthony Bitetto (lower body)

Scratched: Austin Watson

Status report: Miller will start for the Canucks after Markstrom played Tuesday against the Jets. …The Canucks have been shut out in three consecutive games. ... The Predators held an optional morning skate. Rinne is expected to start in goal.

Who's hot: Johansen has two goals and four assists in his past four games.

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