The Nashville Predators may be in a tight race for their first Presidents' Trophy, but it's the Vancouver Canucks who are playing like the best team in the NHL lately.
Two of the Western Conference's top teams look to improve their playoff positions when they square off Wednesday at GM Place for the fourth and final time this season.
The Predators (47-20-6) have 100 points and are battling Detroit, Buffalo and Anaheim for the league's best record. The Northwest Division-leading Canucks (44-23-6) aren't far behind with 94 points.
Vancouver, looking to return to the playoffs after missing out last season, is certainly playing like a contender recently. The Canucks are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and 27-5-5 over the last three months.
"It's just a matter of winning hockey games for me and trying to solidify a good spot for the playoffs," Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo said. "The team is playing well and the playoffs can't come soon enough right now."
Luongo is enjoying the best season of his career. He is 42-20-5 with a 2.30 goals-against average and made 36 saves in a 2-1 win over Edmonton on Monday.
Daniel Sedin scored his team-leading 32nd goal in the victory and added an assist to boost his team-best point total to 73. His twin brother, Henrik, had two assists to give him 60 on the season.
The Sedins have combined for just one point in three meetings with the Predators this season, though, and Daniel hasn't scored in his last 13 matchups against them. Nashville is 2-0-1 versus the Canucks this season, including a 6-0 victory in their last meeting on Nov. 23, and has thwarted all of Vancouver's 15 power-play chances.
The Predators are 5-0-1 in the last six matchups, outscoring Vancouver 23-9. Nashville is opening a three-game Canadian road trip and trying to avoid matching its season-high four-game skid away from home.
The Predators beat Dallas 3-2 on Saturday after suffering back-to-back losses to the Red Wings. Kimmo Timonen scored twice, including the go-ahead goal, to set a career-high with 52 points.
"It was a huge win, we lost two in a row, and we needed to get back on track," Timonen said.
Jordin Tootoo also scored for Nashville, but the right wing won't be available Wednesday after receiving a five-game suspension by the NHL on Monday for punching Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas in the face.
Robidas was knocked unconscious on the play late in the third period and is out at least a week with a concussion. Tootoo, who has three goals, four assists and 104 penalty minutes in 61 games this season, will be eligible to return March 31 when Nashville again faces the Stars.
"While a player is entitled to defend himself, Mr. Tootoo's forceful blow to Robidas' head was an overly aggressive and inappropriate response," NHL senior executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said in a statement Monday.
Nashville's Tomas Vokoun, who made 34 saves Saturday, is 5-0-1 with a 1.58 GAA in his last six starts against the Canucks.