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Canucks try to snap Wings' home streak, nab first

by John Manasso
The stakes could not be much higher for a regular-season game when the Vancouver Canucks visit the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday (7:30 p.m., NHLN-US).

Vancouver, the defending Western Conference champion, sits just two points behind Detroit for the top spot in the West and the League itself. Then there's the matter of the Red Wings' League-record 23-game home winning streak being on the line.

With a 20-10-2 mark, the Canucks bring the League's best road record into the game.

Along with great plot lines, the game also has intriguing subplots.

Two-thirds of one of Vancouver's top forward lines are natives of the Detroit region -- Ryan Kesler (Livonia, Mich.) and David Booth (Detroit).

"They're in front of us by a couple points and obviously it's a game for a No. 1 spot and we want to play well, play our game and not worry about anything else other than executing our game and we'll be fine," said Kesler, who expects to have about 40 family members and friends present.

Booth, a Michigan State product, said his family has had season tickets to Red Wings games for about 25 years. They sit right behind the glass.

"My family is my biggest fans and they've been able to support me through all those years," Booth said. "Just to be able to play in the hometown … they've traveled to Vancouver, they've traveled to Florida. They've made the long road trips to Montreal to see me play. But just to go there and see where we grew up will make it special.”

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the teams, with Detroit having won two of the first three games, including a 4-3 shootout win at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 2 in which Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo made 40 saves.


Goaltending key to Detroit's streak Staff
The Detroit Red Wings have won an NHL-record 23 consecutive home games. Here's a look back at each contest along the way to immortality.
Luongo, coming off a 25-save performance in a 3-1 loss at Nashville on Tuesday, will get the start. He is 1-0-1 against the Wings this season, including a 38-save effort in a 4-2 win Dec. 21. Entering the season, he had a 2.66 goals-against average against Detroit along with a .926 save percentage -- but just a 9-10-5 record.

Often the back-up goalie will receive the start in the second night of a back-to-back situation on the road -- hockey analyst Darren Eliot, a former NHL back-up goalie and Red Wing, calls it the "back-up goalie blues."

Not so with the Canucks.

"Yeah, I think you tend to see more of the strenuous travel on the road," said Cory Schneider, who has played 14 of his 22 games this season on the road. "Three (games) in four (days), back-to-backs, things like that. It's worked out really well. I'm pretty comfortable on the road. I've gotten accustomed to it because I don't get as many home starts just because Lou's so good at home.

"I think it helps that if we can go and we can be a little fresh, maybe the team will be a little fatigued, but if he and I are a little fresh maybe we can keep the team in the game until they get their legs, and usually, if we do that, we have a good chance to win."

With Vancouver being relatively geographically isolated as the northwestern-most team in the League, travel issues are exacerbated. Obviously, that has not affected their performance.

"We don't look at it that way," Schneider said. "Yeah, there are probably more miles and more hours. We travel really well. It's very comfortable. The team provides us with everything at our disposal to recover and to stay in peak shape.

"It can get a little daunting when you're away for a week to 10 days at a time and guys have families and things like that. We do have some long legs where we have to fly back-to-backs that are further than a half-hour or forty minutes. We've been accustomed to it and we pride ourselves on it a little bit, but we don't use that as an excuse."

The contest Thursday is the third of a six-game road trip for Vancouver. It started in Edmonton and after Detroit continues to New Jersey, Dallas and Phoenix.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault called Detroit's home winning streak "an amazing feat."

"To win 23 games in a row at home in such a competitive League is remarkable," he said.

Luongo said the team was almost hopeful the streak would continue after their last meeting so the Canucks could have a chance to break it.

"That's what's fun about playing the game -- challenges like that," he said. "I think as a group we're excited about that and we're going to step up to the plate."

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