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Flames-Canucks Preview @NHL

With the Calgary Flames trying to surge toward their Northwest Division lead, the Vancouver Canucks are comforted knowing their backup goalie is playing as well as their injured starter was.

The Canucks try to avoid their first regulation loss in more than three weeks on Thursday night as they open another home-and-home series with a Flames club looking for their fourth win in five games.

Curtis Sanford is a big reason why Vancouver (14-6-2) has stayed hot and remained atop the division, with the Flames (12-9-1) five points behind.

The Canucks have allowed more than two goals only once in their last 10 games, going 8-0-2 since a 3-2 loss to Detroit on Nov. 2. They avenged that defeat Monday behind Sanford, who made 32 saves as Vancouver beat the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime for its fourth win in a row.

It was Sanford's first start since Roberto Luongo strained his groin in the first period of a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. Sanford became just the third goaltender this season to hold high-scoring Detroit under three goals.

"We're rallying around each other," said Sanford, who is 1-3-0 with a 3.32 GAA in his career versus Calgary. "There's adversity right now and we're finding a way to deal with it. We have each other's back out there and we're going to find a way to get through all this."

Sanford has played all but 4:54 of the Canucks' last three games, winning each of them while posting a 1.69 goals-against average. Luongo, who is 11-5-2 with a 2.17 GAA this season, is not expected to return until next week at the earliest.

That means Sanford will be facing a Calgary team coming off one of its best offensive efforts of the season. The Flames beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-2 on Tuesday night when two of their offseason acquisitions contributed a combined three goals and two assists.

Curtis Glencross scored for the second straight game and had two assists for Calgary. He has six assists during the team's current 4-2-0 stretch.

"I'm starting to feel more comfortable now," said Glencross, who signed a three-year deal during the offseason after playing for Columbus and Edmonton in 2007-08. "It takes a while to settle in and get to know all the guys."

Glencross, however, has no points in two meetings with Vancouver this season and the Flames lost both, 6-0 on Oct. 9 and 5-4 in overtime two days later.

Calgary's Rene Bourque had a goal and an assist in that overtime loss and he's coming off his fifth career multi-goal game, having scored twice versus the Kings. He is already halfway to his point total from all of 2007-08, when he had 10 goals and 14 assists in 62 games with Chicago.

"Maybe these guys weren't always on the first line wherever they've played before, but they've been able to score, put points up and contribute and take the pressure off of Jarome (Iginla)," said Craig Conroy, who had his ninth career three-assist game on Tuesday.

Iginla notched his team-leading 12th goal and team-high 14th assist Tuesday, but is pointless versus Vancouver this season. That home-and-home set marks the only time this season he's failed to register a point in consecutive games.

Canucks winger Daniel Sedin recorded two goals and three assists in those two games. He enters this matchup having scored a goal in four straight games, also totaling three assists in that span.

Sedin scored the game-tying goal Monday off an assist from Sami Salo, who later scored the game-winner after missing the previous two games with the flu.

Vancouver has won six of its last eight home games against Calgary. These teams will also meet Saturday at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

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