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Wings host Canucks in battle of division leaders

by John Kreiser /

CANUCKS (19-8-4) at RED WINGS (20-8-4)


Last 10 -- Vancouver 8-1-1; Detroit 4-4-2

Season series -- The Canucks are making their first visit of the season to Joe Louis Arena. The teams met in Vancouver on Nov. 6, with the Canucks rallying for a 6-4 victory. Detroit has won four of the last six meetings.

Big story -- Two division leaders get together at The Joe, but only one of them is playing well. The Canucks are on a roll, getting 19 of a possible 22 points in their last 11 games after a 3-1 win at St. Louis on Monday. The Wings have been a .500 team during the last couple of weeks and are coming off a disappointing 4-3 OT loss to Dallas on Sunday -- a game in which they wasted 2-0 and 3-2 leads, costing goalie Chris Osgood his 400th NHL victory.

Team Scope:

Canucks -- Not only are the Canucks on a roll, they've won four in a row away from home after the victory at St. Louis. They're looking for more.

"I think we're playing with confidence, but at the same time, we're not satisfied," center Ryan Kesler said. "It's business as usual around here. We've got to keep going. ... You look at the standings and there's not a lot of space (in the Western Conference), so we've got to keep winning and staying on this W-train."

Red Wings -- The Wings did a lot of things right against the Stars. They just couldn't close the deal, and they'll be tested severely by one of the hottest teams in the League.

"I like the way we played last game. We didn't finish the job the way we wanted to,'' coach Babcock said after Tuesday's practice. "In saying all that, I like a lot of things we did the last game. We just got to take another step here this next game and get prepared to battle.''

Who's hot -- Kesler has 6 goals and 9 points in his last six games. Goaltender Roberto Luongo has a 1.24 goals-against average while playing in all four games during the winning streak. He's won nine of his last 10 starts with a 1.69 GAA.

Injury report -- Vancouver forward Mason Raymond is still week-to-week with a broken thumb. … Wings defenseman Brad Stuart sat out Tuesday's practice after taking a shot off the ankle on Sunday but plans to play. Center Mike Modano (wrist surgery) is out indefinitely.

Stat pack -- The Wings' defense is a prime culprit during their recent slump -- they've allowed 15 goals in their last four games. The Canucks have also fared well offensively against Detroit, scoring 15 times in their last three meetings, including six last month.

Puck drop -- Osgood is likely to have to wait a little longer for win No. 400 -- Jimmy Howard is expected to get the call against the Canucks. He might play Thursday at St. Louis; otherwise, he figures to see action next week, when the Wings come back after Christmas with games on Dec. 26-27, then again on the 29th and 31st. When it comes, Osgood will be only the 10th goaltender to reach 400 regular-season victories.

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