The Vancouver Canucks may be in second place in the Pacific Division, but they’re a lot closer to being out of the playoffs altogether than challenging the Anaheim Ducks for the division crown.
The Canucks open a crucial five-game homestand Monday night against a Ducks team that has had their number over the past few seasons.
The Pacific race isn’t much of a contest with NHL-best Anaheim (42-18-7) leading Vancouver by 13 points. Calgary is right there with Vancouver (37-24-4), which has three-point lead over fourth-place Los Angeles. The Canucks are hardly out of the clear in the wild-card race, given they have the same number of points as a Winnipeg team in control of the second spot.
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The Canucks have a chance to add to their 78 points with eight of their next 10 in Vancouver, where they’ve won four of five and totaled 19 goals in those victories.
The Canucks enter this one feeling good after rallying for a 3-2 win over San Jose on Saturday. Vancouver fell behind 2-0 for a fourth straight game, but Radim Vrbata scored twice to help the team avoid its first three-game skid since early January.
"I just know that playoffs are on the line, and it doesn’t matter who we play," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "We have to play like this every night, and if we do we’ll get some wins and if we don’t we won’t."
Winning, however, hasn’t come easy against Anaheim.
The Ducks are 3-0-1 against Vancouver this season and 9-0-1 in the last 10 matchups. They’ve also outscored the Canucks 25-8 in winning the last six meetings in Vancouver.
In the midst of a season-high five-game road winning streak, Anaheim has had nine players score in the season series with Vancouver, with only Matt Beleskey (two goals) netting more than one.
Despite dominating the series, the Ducks are not about to take the Canucks lightly.
"The sense of urgency on every team we’re playing in the next eight games is quite amazing," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said after his team’s overall five-game winning streak was snapped with Friday’s 5-2 home loss to Pittsburgh. "It’s not like we can throw our sticks and sweaters on the ice and think they’re going to bow down."
Corey Perry recorded his team-leading 28th goal Friday, giving him four his last five games, but Frederik Andersen wasn’t particularly sharp in his second game back after missing three weeks because of a head injury. He stopped 16 shots of 20 shots after making 29 saves in Tuesday’s 4-1 win at Arizona.
Boudreau could turn back to John Gibson, who has a 1.33 goals-against average in winning his last three starts and was 6-3-0 with a 2.44 GAA in nine starts when Anderson was out. Gibson has only faced the Canucks once, making 18 saves in 3-0 win in his NHL debut April 7.
Anderson has a 1.19 GAA in starting each game against the Canucks this season and had a 17-save shutout in the last meeting, a 4-0 final on Jan. 27. He is 6-1-0 with a 1.11 GAA lifetime against them.
Vancouver’s Eddie Lack has 1.85 GAA in two starts in the season series and owns a 1.71 GAA in his last three games.
He is playing behind a defense that has killed 27 of 30 penalties in the last 12 contests.
The Ducks have not had much luck drawing penalties, getting just 12 power-play chances in their last seven games and have not scored on any of them. They are 1 for 21 with the man advantage in their last 12 contests.