Canucks-Blues Preview

The Vancouver Canucks quickly ushered the St. Louis Blues out of

the 2009 playoffs, but they can’t seem to figure out how to beat

them this season.

The Blues, meanwhile, are having trouble finding a way to win at

home.

St. Louis will try to turn around a season full of struggles at

the Scottrade Center in its New Year’s Eve matchup against surging

Vancouver, which will be hoping to avoid a third straight loss to

the Blues.

Vancouver allowed five goals during its opening-round sweep of

St. Louis in April, but the Canucks (23-16-1) have been outscored

9-2 in two meetings this season.

“There’s obviously a little vendetta,” said Blues right wing

David Backes after scoring two goals in a 3-1 win at Vancouver on

Dec. 20. “Maybe we should pretend every team kicked our dog before

the game. I’m an animal advocate by the way, but it seems like when

teams show us up we come back the next time and play a good hard

game and get the best of them.”

The Blues (17-17-5) certainly haven’t been bringing that sort of

effort for every game, especially at home. They’re 6-13-2 in St.

Louis, by far the NHL’s worst record at home.

The high point of their home season was probably a 6-1 win over

the Canucks on Nov. 10 in which David Perron notched a hat trick.

The Blues fell to 1-6-1 in their last eight home games with their

third straight loss Tuesday night, 4-3 to Nashville.

“I don’t have answers,” goalie Chris Mason said. “We just have

to be so much better at home. I guess it starts with hard work and

using our brains and our hearts.”

Although their three-game winning streak was snapped in a 3-2

shootout loss at Phoenix on Tuesday, the Canucks have been much

happier with their recent play. They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 to

surge back into playoff position in the Western Conference.

Workhorse goalie Roberto Luongo has started each game during

that stretch, stopping 93.2 percent of shots (259 of 278) for a

1.90 goals-against average. Since joining Vancouver in 2006, Luongo

is 12-4-0 with a 2.15 GAA against the Blues, including

playoffs.

Tuesday’s loss made the Canucks the final NHL team to pick up a

defeat in overtime or a shootout, but coach Alain Vigneault doesn’t

appear to think highly of the result.

“We got one of those loser points so everybody can get off our

case because we didn’t have one,” Vigneault said. “But I would

rather have won and still have people on our case for not having

one of those loser points.”

The Canucks are 7-10-1 on the road, but they’ve shown some

positive signs lately with a 4-2-1 mark in their last seven. They

opened this four-game trip with a 5-1 win over Calgary on

Sunday.

Henrik Sedin had an assist Tuesday to give him at least one

point in 13 of his last 14 games. He has an NHL-best 23 points in

December.

His twin brother Daniel is not far behind with 20 points this

month. The duo combined for three goals and six assists in the

sweep of the Blues last postseason.