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Jackets, Canucks set for Round 3

by Deborah Francisco
BLUE JACKETS (31-24-6) AT CANUCKS (39-15-9)


Last 10: Columbus 7-2-1; Vancouver 5-5-0.

Season Series – This is the third meeting of four between the teams. Vancouver won both of its previous meetings with a 3-2 overtime decision on Dec. 15 and a 7-3 rout on Dec. 23. Raffi Torres and R.J. Umberger each had a pair of goals in their last meeting.

Big Story – The NHL trade deadline has come and gone and both the Blue Jackets and Canucks added new pieces to their teams so this game will be a chance for both squads to display their new faces. The Blue Jackets acquired right wing Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto from Phoenix, while the Canucks added forwards Chris Higgins, Maxim Lapierre and MacGregor Sharp in the Feb. 28 trading extravaganza. This game, and virtually all of the remaining regular-season games, will be clutch for the Blue Jackets who trail the Western Conference playoff picture by a mere four points. Vancouver, however, has little to worry about as they boast a League-best 87 points.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets – The Blue Jackets are on a tear lately, winning seven of their last 10 games and each of their three losses were decided by a one-goal margin. Prior to falling to Nashville 3-2 on Sunday, the Blue Jackets had won three straight. While the final weeks of the regular season are closing in, the Blue Jackets' recent win streak is keeping them within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Rookies Matt Calvert and Kris Russell scored for the Blue Jackets on Sunday.

The recent performance of Calvert has helped propel the Blue Jackets' offensive success. Calvert boasts eight points in his last four games, including an unbelievable four-point performance against the Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 25. Calvert notched his first career hat trick in that game. His standout performance of late also earned him NHL Third Star of the Week honors.

"He's done lots of good things and is certainly making the most of his opportunities, getting elevated and (earning) the ice time," coach Scott Arniel said. "At the NHL level there is always the unknown, but I saw him in junior and I saw him do what he did (Friday)."

Canucks – After opening the month of February with a four-game win streak the Canucks have failed to string together back-to-back wins since Feb. 7. However, they also have not lost back-to-back games since Jan. 22, and they enter March as the League leaders in points. Despite losing to Boston 3-1 last Saturday, the Canucks are in good position to make a splash in the post season with the three new forwards who were acquired on the trade deadline.

"We had some good chances," coach Alain Vigneault said of the loss. "Their goalie made some big saves. They made one more play than we did and won the game."

Who's Hot – Blue Jackets D Grant Clitsome has assists in his past five games. … Manny Malhotra boasts three goals in four games including the lone goal in Saturday’s contest and the game-winner against the Blues on Thursday.

Injury Report – Columbus D Anton Stralman left in the first period of Saturday's game with a lower-body injury and did not return. They are also without center Derick Brassard (hand) and Kristian Huselius (lower-body). … For Vancouver defensemen Kevin Bieksa (foot), Andrew Alberts (wrist), Lee Sweatt (foot) and Alexander Edler (back) are all sidelined, as is forward Guillaume Desbiens (hand).

Stat Pack – Calvert, a fifth-round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, is only the second Blue Jackets' rookie to score three goals in a game.

Puck Drop – "I think we added experience and we added a little bit of a different element than we possess on this team currently," Vancouver GM Mike Gillis told the Vancouver Sun. "With Chris Higgins we have a player who can move up and down the lineup and in Max Lapierre we have a third/fourth-line player that we think can play with some grit and sandpaper and add a different dimension that we don't currently have."
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