The return of All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo and addition of high-scoring Mats Sundin were expected to move the Vancouver Canucks among the Western Conference's elite teams.
Instead, the Canucks will look to end a pair of lengthy skids on Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild at GM Place in a matchup of teams trying to move back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Vancouver has gone 0-5-2 overall since winning at Edmonton on Jan. 7 in Sundin's debut. Playing on home ice hasn't been much better for the Canucks, as they've gone 0-6-2 there after a shutout win against Ottawa on Dec. 28.
Facing Minnesota (24-21-3), though, could help halt those slides. The Canucks are 3-0-0 this season against the Wild, including a 2-0 home win on Nov. 8 during which Luongo posted the third of his three straight shutout wins.
Minnesota and Vancouver begin play tied with Dallas for ninth in the West. Those teams are two points behind four others that are knotted in fifth place.
Following a 5-3 home loss to Nashville on Wednesday, coach Alain Vigneault said the Canucks (22-20-7) needed to stay strong.
"No one in that dressing room is taking this lightly," he said. "We understand everyone's frustration and disappointment, but we are going to stick together to get back on right track. Our guys are not indifferent, and they are taking this personally.
"They want to succeed, and sometimes wanting too much can hurt you as much as not wanting it enough."
While the Canucks want to succeed, the results just haven't been there. Vancouver has been outscored 34-22 during its home slide, and has given up six power-play goals on 13 chances over the last three games there.
The Canucks scored three goals less than six minutes apart early in the second period to take a 3-1 lead over the Predators. But Luongo stopped 33 of 37 shots and dropped to 0-2-2 with a 3.64 goals-against average since returning after missing nearly two months with a groin injury.
He was 11-5-2 with a 2.17 GAA and five shutouts before getting hurt on Nov. 22 in Pittsburgh.
Sundin tallied 555 goals and 766 assists over 17 seasons with Quebec and Toronto prior to signing a one-year deal with Vancouver last month. The 37-year-old center, however, has only two goals and an assist in eight games.
"I don't care what team you are in this league, Detroit, San Jose, every team goes through spurts," he told the Canucks' official Web site. "Detroit last year went 10 games or something without winning and they ended up winning the Stanley Cup. It's how you come out of funks like this that makes a difference."
In six career games against the Wild, Sundin has three goals and three assists, but he hasn't faced them since December 2006.
The Wild opened their two-game road trip on Friday with a 3-1 loss to Edmonton. Niklas Backstrom - Luongo's All-Star teammate - stopped eight of 11 shots before being replaced by Josh Harding early in the second period.
James Sheppard scored his fourth goal for Minnesota, which has alternated wins and losses in its last six games.
"It really took us a while to get going," he said. "We picked it up late in the second and in the third. It was probably something mental. We just didn't have it together at the beginning of the game."
The Wild have tallied just three goals this season against the Canucks - all by Mikko Koivu. Minnesota's captain leads the club with 13 goals and 34 assists, but has two goals and three assists in 12 games at Vancouver.