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Ducks visit Canucks at place they play well

by Matthew Mankiewich /

DUCKS (0-0-0) at CANUCKS (0-0-0)


Season series: The Ducks and Canucks will meet three times over this compressed season, and this will be one of two at Rogers Arena. That suits the Ducks just fine -- they are 4-2-2 in their past eight regular-season games there and have not lost in regulation in Vancouver since March 24, 2010.

Big story: Expectations remain high in Vancouver as fans wait for the team to convert regular-season success into the franchise's first Stanley Cup. The Sedin twins are back, but holes elsewhere spark concern early on. The Ducks wish last season began in January, when they transformed themselves from one of the worst teams in the Western Conference to one of the toughest.

Team scope:

Ducks: An agonizingly slow start did in the Ducks' season last year, but they played more to their ability after Jan. 1, going 24-15-6, fifth-best in the Western Conference from that date. This year's 48-game schedule will be even less forgiving, so a solid start is vital.

"It could be one of those years where if you get behind the 8-ball early, you don't know," Bobby Ryan told the Los Angeles Times. "It's just ever more important for us to get off to a good start and put all of that to bed. Because those issues will go away if you're winning.

"That resolve is not going to take long to get going. It can't."

One of several bright spots down the stretch was Teemu Selanne, who scored 26 goals and compiled 66 points, making him the second-oldest player to score as many goals and joining Gordie Howe as the two oldest players to have a 60-point season. And at age 41, Selanne was the oldest player in NHL history to appear in all 82 of his team's games. It was such a good year he decided to come back for another one, his 22nd NHL season.

Canucks: The lead topic League-wide has been the possible fate of goalie Roberto Luongo. The Canucks are going with Cory Schneider as their No. 1, but that does not mean Luongo will be available at a fire-sale price.

Adding pressure to a potential trade is the prospect of opening a sprint season without Ryan Kesler (wrist and shoulder), David Booth (groin) and Dan Hamhuis (groin), so general manager Mike Gillis needs to get maximum value in any Luongo deal.

It leads to two important questions heading into the opening weekend: Whether Schneider holds on to the top job; and who joins Mason Raymond on the second line now that two-thirds of last year's threesome (Booth and Kesler) are out? Raymond seems ready to go, though, scoring a hat trick in Thursday's intrasquad scrimmage.

Injury report: Ducks top 2012 draft pick and best overall prospect Hampus Lindholm suffered a concussion in December and is not cleared to play. … Canucks goalie prospect Eddie Lack (groin) has been sidelined since Nov. 27 and was a candidate to back up Schneider if and when Luongo was traded. Forward Steven Pinizzotto (groin) missed his chance to make the opening-night roster but could see action on the fourth line later this season. Forward Samuel Pahlsson suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon playing in the Swedish Elite League in September and has no set return date. Booth's groin injury will knock him out 4-6 weeks, and there seems to be some hope Kesler will be back soon, but still no date has been set.

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