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Northwest under wraps, Canucks finish with Flames

by Brian Hunter
FLAMES (40-31-10) at CANUCKS (48-28-5)

Last 10: Calgary 4-5-1; Vancouver 4-4-2

Season series:
Sixth and final meeting of the regular season between these Northwest Division rivals. Calgary won two of three at Pengrowth Saddledome to get things started and Vancouver has split a pair of games at GM Place. Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson of the Canucks lead all scorers with three goals -- Raymond recorded the natural hat trick in a 5-1 win over the Flames on Dec. 27.

Big story: These teams started the regular season against one another and will conclude it in the same fashion. When Calgary opened up with a 5-3 victory, high hopes abounded for Brent Sutter's first season as coach. But the Flames suffered through a dreadful 0-6-3 stretch in January, eventually got passed in the standings by the resurgent Red Wings and came up short in a late challenge of the Avalanche for the Western Conference's final playoff spot. Vancouver, meanwhile, is locked in as the No. 3 seed by virtue of finishing first in the Northwest and is waiting to see who its first-round opponent will be.

Team Scope:

Flames: It was a topsy-turvy stretch run for Calgary, which was left for dead in late March before ripping off a three-game winning streak to pull into a tie in points with Colorado for eighth place. But the Flames haven't won since beating the Avalanche 2-1 on April 2. Their final home game Thursday summed up the general disappointment of the season, as the Wild beat them 2-1 in a shootout with veteran Wade Dubielewicz perfect after coming on for an injured Niklas Backstrom.

"It's not the way we wanted to end at home but we've got one more to go and we're going to try to win that one and end the season on a good note," forward Nigel Dawes said.

Vancouver survived an NHL-record 14-game road trip sandwiched around the Olympic break to eclipse 100 points for the season and finish first in its division. Although the Canucks ended up just below .500 on the road (19-20-2), they will try to improve upon a 29-8-3 home record that is tied with the Blackhawks for best in the West. They are coming off a 4-2 loss in San Jose on Thursday.

"The cards weren't completely aligned for us tonight," backup goalie Andrew Raycroft said. "We're a little short on the back end and we were trying not to get hurt. We could have mailed it in but the guys kept battling."

Who's hot:
Flames defenseman Ian White has three goals in his last six games. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has allowed two goals or less in four of his last five starts, but has just a 2-2-1 record to show for it.

Daniel Sedin has points in 20 of 21 games he has played for the Canucks since Feb. 12, totaling 10 goals and 19 assists over that span. Pavol Demitra has a goal and four assists in his last five games.

Injury report:
Calgary forwards Christopher Higgins (foot), Curtis Glencross (knee) and Daymond Langkow (neck) are all sidelined.

Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell is on injured reserve with a concussion. Fellow blueliner Christian Ehrhoff is out with a sprained left knee. Forward Ryan Johnson broke his foot and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Defensemen Shane O'Brien and Aaron Rome are questionable due to undisclosed reasons.

Stat pack:
Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, should he get the start, will be attempting to claim his second career 40-win season -- he won 47, tied with Bernie Parent for the second-highest single-season total in NHL history, in 2006-07. His Canadian Olympic teammate, Martin Brodeur of the Devils, broke Parent's record that same season with 48 victories.

Puck drop: It was Vancouver's shootout loss to Colorado earlier this week that officially eliminated Calgary from playoff contention. This is the Flames' chance to get a little revenge and head into the offseason on a positive note.

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