Blue Jackets-Canucks Preview
The Vancouver Canucks may be inching closer to clinching their fourth straight Northwest Division title, but they're enduring their worst stretch of the season.
Hosting the NHL-worst Columbus Blue Jackets, who haven't beaten them in regulation in more than two years, could help the Canucks start to turn things around.
They look to avoid their first three-game losing streak in nearly 14 months when they take on the Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
Vancouver (42-20-8) owns a comfortable lead in the Northwest and is six points behind Western Conference-leading St. Louis despite going 2-4-2 in its last eight games.
The Canucks have failed to take advantage of a season-high seven-game homestand which concludes with this contest, dropping four of the last five at Rogers Arena after opening 19-6-4 there.
Vancouver's troubles continued with a 5-4 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday, four days after falling 4-1 to lowly Montreal. The Canucks haven't dropped three in a row since an 0-1-3 skid Jan. 16-22, 2011, and they last lost three straight in regulation Nov. 17-21, 2010.
On Wednesday, the Canucks scored their most goals in regulation since a 5-2 win at Edmonton on Feb. 19. Ryan Kesler scored for the third straight game, and Henrik Sedin ended an eight-game point drought with two assists.
"I don't think we played bad," defenseman Kevin Bieksa told Vancouver's official website. "We generated a lot of chances offensively, we scored some goals, the power play got going, we got a lot of shots on net.
"You have to look at the film, but a couple of those goals were bad bounces and bad luck and sometimes it doesn't matter how good you play if the team's got some talent on the other side."
Vancouver gave up at least four goals for the fourth time in five games.
"There's a couple areas of our game that we need to clean up and we'll address that with our group here after we watch the tape," coach Alain Vigneault said. "At the end of the day we can say there's some positive signs, but this game's about winning and we didn't win tonight so we've got to have a good practice (Thursday), have a good practice Friday and have a good game Saturday."
All signs point to that happening, as Vancouver was on a nine-game winning streak against the Blue Jackets (22-41-7) before a 2-1 shootout loss at Columbus on Dec. 13. The Canucks' last regulation defeat in the series was 5-3 at home Oct. 5, 2009.
Columbus, the only team that has been eliminated from playoff contention, opened a three-game trip through western Canada with its third straight loss Wednesday, 3-0 to the Oilers.
The Blue Jackets have scored twice during that skid and have four goals in regulation in three games against Vancouver this season.
"We had a lot of passengers tonight," Columbus assistant captain James Wisniewski said Wednesday. "Nobody was really going. We had our chances to score. All year we have had a hard time scoring goals. Things really haven't changed in that department. We had opportunities and just didn't capitalize on them."