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GAME: Columbus Blue Jackets (20-42-8-4) at Vancouver Canucks (37-23-10-5).

TIME: Sunday, 10 p.m. EST.

The Vancouver Canucks know Todd Bertuzzi isn't coming back. They hope standout defenseman Ed Jovanovski and starting goalie Dan Cloutier are.

Vancouver looks to end a season-high four-game winless streak when it opens a four-game homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets, losers of eight straight.

With one win in its last seven games (1-3-2-1), the Canucks may have cost themselves a chance to catch Colorado for the Northwest Division title. Vancouver is also in danger of being caught by Dallas and Calgary for fourth place in the West - the final spot that carries home-ice in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Canucks are 1-2-2-1 since Bertuzzi, the team's second-leading scorer, was suspended for his attack on Colorado's Steve Moore.

"I don't care who you are, or any team for that matter, to forget about a guy like Todd Bertuzzi, you're just kidding yourself," Canucks forward Matt Cooke said. "I don't think it's hindering the way we play and the way we should play. Anyway you look at it, we can't bring Todd back. We have to be successful without him."

While Bertuzzi is suspended for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs, Jovanovski - arguably the team's top defenseman - is very close to returning after missing 25 games with a shoulder injury.

Cloutier was scratched for Friday's 4-3 overtime loss at Chicago with a hip injury sustained in a 3-0 loss at Dallas on Thursday.

With Cloutier day-to-day, Johan Hedberg started Friday, but was pulled at 6:53 of the second period after allowing three goals on 14 shots. Alex Auld stopped 19 of 20 shots in relief.

Canucks captain Markus Naslund has no goals in the six games Bertuzzi has missed. Naslund, however, does have three goals and six points in three games against Columbus this season.

The Blue Jackets matched a franchise record with their eighth straight loss, 2-0 at Calgary on Thursday.

Columbus has been outscored 29-12 during the eight-game skid, which matches the franchise record set during the team's inaugural season of 2000-01.

"It's tough to take, not just in the standings, but morally in the dressing room," defenseman Luke Richardson said. "It's tough to find that energy the next day to try and build off something you did the night before when you lose every night."

STANDINGS (through March 19): Blue Jackets - 52 points, 5th place, 45 PB, Central Division. Canucks - 89 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blue Jackets - Rick Nash, 37 goals and 51 points; David Vyborny, 30 assists; Jody Shelley, 196 PIM. Canucks - Naslund, 32 goals, 46 assists and 78 points; Jarkko Ruutu, 131 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 19): Blue Jackets - Power play: 14.7 percent (54 for 368), 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.9 percent (251 for 299), 17th. Canucks - Power play: 15.1 percent (53 for 351), 21st. Penalty killing: 85.8 percent (290 for 338), 3rd.

GOALTENDERS: Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (17-34-7, 4 SO, 2.60 GAA); Fred Brathwaite (3-10-1, 3.35). Canucks - Hedberg (8-5-2, 3, 2.37); Auld (2-2-2, 2.06).

SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: March 6; Canucks, 4-0. At Columbus, Ohio, Hedberg stopped 32 shots for his second consecutive shutout and Naslund had a goal and an assist.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jackets - 5-26-4-2 on the road; Canucks - 17-12-7-0 at home.

Associated Press
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