Blue Jackets-Canucks Preview
The Vancouver Canucks appear to have put their early season struggles behind them, and they're once again starting to resemble a Stanley Cup-caliber team.
They've looked like a Cup contender against the Columbus Blue Jackets for the last few seasons.
After losing in last season's Cup finals, Vancouver (13-9-1) got off to a sluggish start to 2011-12, going 6-7-1. The Canucks have surged since, however, and are set to open a four-game homestand riding a four-game winning streak.
"We were kind of waiting for this to happen,'' forward Daniel Sedin said after a 3-2 victory over San Jose on Saturday. "We have a good team. We know if we play the right way, how good we can be. It was a matter of time until we turned the corner and we have now.''
Strong play in net has been key to the turnaround, but it hasn't come from Roberto Luongo.
Schneider has started five straight games since Luongo sustained an upper-body injury. Luongo has been healthy enough to start the last three, but Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault has stayed with his hot goaltender.
Schneider stopped a season-high 43 shots Saturday and has a 0.74 goals-against average with two shutouts during the winning streak. He made his first start of the season in Columbus on Oct. 10, making 23 saves in a 3-2 victory, and has posted a 2.00 GAA in winning his three starts in the series.
Luongo, 7-5-1 with a 2.97 GAA on the season, has a 1.91 GAA in winning his last three starts over Columbus.
The Blue Jackets' eight-game skid in the series is their longest current losing streak against any opponent. The Canucks also own an eight-game win streak over Toronto to tie for their longest current run against a team.
Burrows has scored two of his seven goals in the last three games, and has six goals and four assists during the winning streak. Kesler has recorded two of his four goals over the last three contests, and he has four goals and seven assists in the last seven versus the Blue Jackets.
Columbus (6-14-3) arrives in Vancouver to open a four-game road trip after losing 2-1 to St. Louis on Sunday, snapping a 3-0-2 run.
"When you lose one and you've got to start over and start a new streak,'' coach Scott Arniel said. "You can't let it linger.''
Arniel received another strong performance from Curtis Sanford, who made 27 saves. Sanford has gone 3-1-2 with a 1.45 GAA in starting the last six games, yielding two or fewer goals five times.
No. 1 goalie Steve Mason was back on the bench serving as Sanford's backup Sunday after missing the last three games with a concussion. Mason, 3-12-1 with a 3.63 GAA, might not start Tuesday considering he has been in net for six games of the losing streak versus the Canucks, posting a 3.73 GAA.
Sanford is 5-0-2 with a 1.56 GAA and a shutout in the series, though he hasn't faced the Canucks since March 2007. He played for Vancouver in 2007-08 and '08-'09.
Rick Nash, Columbus' leader with seven goals, has scored once in his last nine games against Vancouver.