While the Olympic break might not be coming at the ideal time for the surging Toronto Maple Leafs, the reeling Vancouver Canucks should welcome the time off.
If the Canucks are to continue their mastery in this series Saturday night, they must end their longest skid in five seasons and prevent the Maple Leafs from extending their lengthiest home winning streak in seven years.
Vancouver (27-23-9) has been outscored 23-10 while losing six games in regulation, for the club’s longest slide since dropping eight in a row from Jan. 9-31, 2009. The Canucks have not lost seven straight in regulation since the 1998-99 season.
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"The only way to get out of this is to work hard," goaltender Roberto Luongo told the NHL’s official website after Thursday’s 5-2 loss at Montreal.
"If we feel sorry for ourselves, it’s only going to get worse."
Though the Canucks have dropped 15 of 19, coach John Tortorella still sees plenty of fight in his team.
"That’s the only thing we can do as a club, right now, is stay positive," said Tortorella, whose group has three goals in three games since he returned from a 15-day suspension. "Why lose that battle? We need to continue working at this."
The challenge remains difficult with star Henrik Sedin to sit for the eighth time in 10 games with a rib injury. Sedin, who has gone without a goal in 17 straight games and without a point in six, announced the injury will keep him from playing for Sweden at the Olympics.
"It was an easier decision to make knowing we’d won gold before," he said. "This rest will be important for me to help (the Canucks) win."
His brother Daniel has not recorded a goal in 18 games or a point in eight.
Luongo, who will be playing for Team Canada, has dropped four in a row and owns a 3.63 goals-against average in his last five starts.
However, he’s 9-0-0 with a 1.91 GAA in his past 10 starts against Toronto (31-22-6) after making 21 saves in a 4-0 home victory Nov. 2.
Vancouver owns a 49-21 goal advantage during its 11-game winning streak over the Maple Leafs, and has posted three straight 5-3 victories during a five-game run at Toronto.
Daniel Sedin has eight goals and 11 assists during a 10-game point streak against the Maple Leafs.
Toronto, however, might be in good position to end its series drought by winning a seventh straight at home for the first time since taking its final nine there in 2006-07. The Maple Leafs have scored six goals in each of their last two at Air Canada Centre, which they’ll return to after a 4-1 road win over Tampa Bay on Thursday.
James van Riemsdyk scored his third goal in five games and Jonathan Bernier made 33 saves as the Maple Leafs won for the 10th time in 13 contests.
"We want to finish strong before the (Olympic) break with as many points as possible," said Bernier, winner of five in a row at home.
U.S. Olympian van Riemsdyk has eight goals and seven assists in 14 games, but one point in four career contests against Vancouver.