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Canucks-Thrashers Preview @NHLdotcom

The Jason LaBarbera era has gotten off to a positive start for the Vancouver Canucks.

Their newest acquisition should be back in goal on Friday night when the Canucks wrap up a two-game swing against the sputtering Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena.

With captain Roberto Luongo and Curtis Sanford sidelined by groin injuries, Vancouver was left with untested rookie Cory Schneider on its roster earlier in the week. The Canucks addressed that on Tuesday by acquiring LaBarbera from Los Angeles for a seventh-round draft pick in 2009.

Making his 99th career start and first with his hometown-area team, LaBarbera turned aside 31 shots in a 2-1 win over Nashville on Thursday.

"I wanted to establish my position," said LaBarbera, a native of Burnaby, British Columbia, who earned his first win since beating Columbus on Dec. 6. "I've had some tough luck against Nashville in the past so it was good for me to get the win against them."

LaBarbera has made one career start against Atlanta, and it was one he probably would like to forget even though he won. Playing with the Kings on Jan 19, 2006, he made 33 saves in an 8-6 victory.

Mattias Ohlund scored in the first period against the Predators - his first goal in 28 games - and Jason Jaffray snapped a 1-1 tie with 4:06 to play in the contest. Vancouver (21-15-3) has won two of three, but trails Northwest Division-leading Calgary by three points.

The Canucks have won three straight in Atlanta, and five of the last six matchups with the Thrashers.

A season-high five-game winning streak had Atlanta at 7-7-2 on Nov. 14. Since then, though, rookie coach John Anderson's club has been dreadful.

The Thrashers have posted a 5-14-3 record, and have failed to string together back-to-back wins in that span. Ilya Kovalchuk scored on Wednesday but Atlanta (12-21-5) lost its fourth in a row, 3-1 to Carolina.

"We lose again, so it really doesn't do anything," said Kovalchuk, who leads the Thrashers with 25 assists and 37 points.

When the franchise's all-time scoring leader has notched a point this season, the Thrashers are 11-9-4. When he's doesn't, they're just 1-12-1.

Kovalchuk has one goal in four career games against the Canucks.

Kari Lehtonen has allowed 10 goals while losing each of his last three starts in 2008, and is 0-2-0 in his career against the Canucks despite a 2.56 goals-against average. Anderson could choose to go with former Vancouver netminder Johan Hedberg in this matchup.

Hedberg, primarily a backup to Dan Cloutier with the Canucks in 2003-04, is 6-6-3 with a 3.61 GAA in 16 starts this season.

Atlanta is one point ahead of the last-place New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference.

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