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Caps try to slow down Canucks

by John Kreiser /
CANUCKS (28-9-6) at CAPITALS (24-13-7)


Last 10 -- Vancouver 8-1-1; Washington 6-1-3

Season series -- It's the only meeting of the season between the teams -- and the Canucks' first visit to the Verizon Center since Oct. 13, 2008. Vancouver won 3-2 at home on Dec. 18, 2008, in the only meeting last season. The Canucks have won six of the last seven games between the teams.

Big story -- The Canucks' 17-game unbeaten streak in regulation is history after Thursday's 1-0 loss to the Rangers in New York. Vancouver's objective now is to avoid a losing streak, and to do that, they'll have to beat a Washington team that's coming off a 3-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Wednesday, a game in which the Caps were dominated for most of the night.

Team Scope:

Canucks -- It wasn't that the Canucks didn't have chances against the Rangers -- Vancouver managed 31 shots and had opportunities right to the end. But Henrik Lundqvist was flawless for New York and handed the Canucks their first loss in regulation since Dec. 5.

Coach Alain Vigneault had no complaints with his own goaltender -- backup Cory Schneider stopped 34 of 35 shots.

"There were two hot goaltenders on the ice tonight and it was a battle from start to finish," Vigneault said. "We had a couple of opportunities but their goaltender made some good saves."

Expect starter Roberto Luongo to be back in goal against the Caps. He's 16-10-3 in his career with two shutouts, a 2.26 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage against the Capitals.

Capitals -- The Caps are back home after a disappointing two-game swing through Florida. They spotted the Panthers a 3-0 lead, rallied to force OT, then gave up Dennis Wideman's goal for a 4-3 loss on Tuesday. One night later, they were beaten 3-0 at Tampa Bay and managed just 23 shots against Dwayne Roloson while falling two points behind the Lightning in the Southeast Division race.

"In the Florida game, we were doing great until we [had to kill] a 5-on-3, that sort of sets you back," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau told the team's website. "I think penalties, in the end, is what loses your momentum. You can go back and look, we've taken a penalty early every game recently. Staying out of the box is an important thing."

Who's hot -- Despite being blanked on Thursday, the Sedin twins are still among the NHL's top scorers. Daniel has 17 points in his last 12 games, while Henrik has 18 in the same span. Both have 55 points, tying them for third in the NHL.

Injury report -- The Canucks are comparatively healthy -- even defenseman Sami Salo, who hasn't played this season due to an offseason Achilles injury, is getting close to returning. … Washington will be without star forward Alexander Semin (thigh), who was injured last Saturday, and defenseman Tom Poti, who left Wednesday's game in the second period with an undisclosed injury. Forward Matt Bradley is still out with a broken finger.

Stat pack -- Washington's power play is 2-for-25 (8.0 percent) over the last seven games and 5-for-60 (8.3 percent) in its last 15 contests. The Caps, who led the NHL in power-play percentage last season, are 17th this season at 18.0 percent. They've scored 12 fewer goals with the extra man than they had at the same point in 2009-10.

Puck drop -- They don't see the Canucks often, but the Caps know they're facing one of their biggest challenges this season.

"We're facing a juggernaut," Boudreau said of the meeting against the Canucks. "There's no ifs, ands [or buts] about it. They've got strength right through their lineup and they're going to be a very difficult team to beat. But it's a tremendous challenge for us. It's a great test, and we're looking forward to it.

"We have to be at the top of our game or we're going to get our butts handed to us. We seem to be able to get up for those kinds of teams. I think we'll be able to do the same thing again."

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