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Disciplined Canucks aim to keep top spot in West

by Mike G. Morreale /
CANUCKS (27-8-6) at ISLANDERS (13-21-6)

TV --

Last 10 -- Canucks 8-0-2; Islanders 7-3-0

Season series -- This is the lone meeting between the teams this season. John Tavares had 2 goals and 3 assists in a 5-2 victory against the Canucks in the only meeting last season, in Vancouver on March 16, 2010. Prior to that matchup, the teams last had met Nov. 17, 2008, when the Isles earned a 2-1 shootout victory at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum as Frans Nielsen scored the shootout winner.

Big story -- Vancouver saw its eight-game win streak and six-game home win streak end Saturday following a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Arena. The loss moved the Wings to within a point of Vancouver for the top spot in the NHL. The win streak was the Canucks' longest since setting the franchise record of 10 straight victories in November, 2002. Vancouver also set a new franchise record for the longest streak without a regulation loss at 16 games (13-0-3).

Team Scope:

Canucks --
One reason the Canucks lead the League with 60 points is the fact the club has remained extremely disciplined this season -- the team ranks 12th with an average of 11.8 penalty minutes per game through the first half of the season. The team was 26th in 2009-10 (15.5 penalty minutes per game), 28th in 2008-09 (16.5) and 29th in 2007-08 (18.0).

"Guys are still playing with an edge and feistiness, but they're just playing better whistle to whistle and staying out of things that lead to nothing good," said coach Alain Vigneault. "When you spend less time killing penalties, you play more 5-on-5 and that's one area where we have definitely improved."

Islanders -- New York is 9-11-3, including 8-3-1 in its last 12 games, since interim coach Jack Capuano replaced Scott Gordon on Nov. 15. It is the best stretch since a 9-3-1 streak late in the 2009-10 season. Leading the offensive attack has been Tavares, who had 4 goals and 7 points during the club's recently completed five-game road swing. He has team-highs of 14 goals and 28 points in 37 games this season.

Who's hot -- Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin, the team's 2008 fifth-round pick, stopped 53 of 56 shots for a .946 save percentage in his first two NHL games, including a 4-3 overtime win against the Avalanche in his first NHL start Saturday in Colorado. … Canucks center Ryan Kesler has scored 8 of his 23 goals and 16 of his 40 points on the power play.

Injury report -- Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro headed home Friday to have his injured groin re-evaluated. Defenseman Mark Eaton is expected to have hip surgery and is out indefinitely. Nielsen (groin) is day-to-day. New York also is without defenseman Mark Streit and forward Kyle Okposo, who each are recovering from shoulder surgery, forward Trent Hunter (knee surgery), center Doug Weight (back), and defensemen Radek Martinek (wrist) and Mike Mottau (hip surgery). … Vancouver will be without defenseman Sami Salo (Achilles) and forward Rick Rypien (personal).

Stat pack -- Canucks right wing Daniel Sedin scored his 25th goal of the season Saturday against Detroit, putting him on pace to become just the second Swedish player to reach the 50-goal plateau. The only other Swedish-born player to reach that mark is ex-Calgary Flames forward Hakan Loob.

Puck drop -- On Saturday the NHL announced that Vigneault had earned a co-coaching position for the 58th All-Star Game, on Jan. 30 in Raleigh, N.C. Vigneault was selected for having coached Vancouver to the highest points percentage (.738) in the Western Conference through Jan. 8. At the time of his Vigneault's selection, the Canucks led the West with 59 points in 40 games (27-8-5).
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