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Canucks resume long road trip against Blue Jackets

by Dave Lozo

CANUCKS (37-22-2) at BLUE JACKETS (25-28-10)

Last 10:
Vancouver 6-4-0; Columbus 5-4-1

Season series:
This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. The Canucks have taken two of three.

Big story:
It's the first game out of the break for several Olympians, including Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and Blue Jackets center Rick Nash. They were teammates on Team Canada, but now Nash will be firing shots on Luongo as the players get back to business after winning a gold medal. This also marks the ninth game of the Canucks' 14-game road trip.

Team Scope:

Luongo and Ryan Kesler, who played for Team USA, get one day off and go right back to work for the Canucks. While Luongo won gold, Kesler and the U.S. team took silver, leaving Team USA GM Brian Burke gushing over the physical winger.

"We proved that it's not just Canada’s game," said Kesler, who scored the first U.S. goal to cut into a 2-0 lead in the second period in the gold-medal game. "We took them to overtime, we beat them once already and it was anybody's game in overtime. We've got to give them the respect, they played a pretty good game, and I thought we played pretty well, too."

The Canucks come out of the break as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference with 76 points, holding a tiebreaker over the Colorado Avalanche.

Blue Jackets:
Nash will be in the same boat when these two teams collide -- a tired star who went the distance and has to refocus on the NHL.

But some of his teammates might be a little exhausted after getting together -- and getting swept up -- while watching Nash play in the gold-medal game.

"Guys kept yelling at the TV set, 'Get Nasher out there again,'" said forward Derek Dorsett, who watched the game at the condominium of Jared Boll and Kris Russell. "It was awesome to see him play such a good game."

The Jackets will need Nash at full-strength right away. They are nine points out of the eighth spot in the West.

Who's hot:
Fans might be hot under the collar after going two weeks without seeing their teams play. But everyone is starting fresh after the break.

Injury report:
Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa isn't close to returning after severing tendons in his leg. Fellow blueliner Willie Mitchell is dealing with a concussion, but could return soon.

The two-week break likely means the return of Jackets center Derrick Brassard (undisclosed) and forward Derek Dorsett (forearm). Defensemen Mike Commodore and Rostislav Kesla could be back in the lineup soon.

Stat pack: Luongo left the Olympics with a perfect 5-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage, and Rick Nash had 2 goals and 3 assists for Team Canada. Ryan Kesler had 2 goals in 6 games for Team USA.

Puck drop:
The letdown watch is on for Luongo. He wouldn't be the first goaltender to leave the Olympics after an emotional roller coaster only to struggle in his first games back in the NHL. Backup Andrew Raycroft could get the start for the Canucks, but the team hasn't announced anything yet.

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