Canucks-Blues Preview

The Vancouver Canucks have earned at least one point in each of

Roberto Luongo’s starts over the past two-plus months.

The St. Louis Blues were the last team to prevent that from

happening.

Vancouver continues its chase of the Presidents’ Trophy at St.

Louis, where the Blues are looking to revive their fading playoff

hopes.

Luongo has gone 16-0-5 with a 1.90 goals-against average since a

3-2 regulation loss to the Blues on Dec. 5, including a 3-1 victory

in the rematch Dec. 20. He won his sixth straight start Saturday,

making 24 saves in a 4-2 win against Calgary.

For all of Luongo’s success, he credits his team for playing

well in front of him. Vancouver (36-11-9), which has an NHL-best 81

points, has killed off 31 straight penalties over its last eight

games and 38 of 39 in the last 10.

”Our penalty kill has been good all year and come up big in

crucial situations and (it was) no different (Saturday),” Luongo

said.

Mikael Samuelsson stayed hot, scoring twice to give him seven

goals and seven assists in his last eight games after tallying only

a single assist in the previous 14. He attributed his recent surge

to coach Alain Vigneault moving him back on the second line with

Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, who assisted on Samuelsson’s first

goal.

”I’m not only here to score goals, but when it doesn’t go in

for you, what are you going to do?” Samuelsson said. ”You gotta

stick with it and believe in yourself. Everybody is important to

the team and not everyone puts points up.”

Alex Burrows also added a pair of goals.

While Luongo continues his stellar play, the recent struggles of

Jaroslav Halak have contributed to St. Louis’ freefall toward the

bottom of the Western Conference.

Halak was pulled midway through the second period after allowing

three goals on 20 shots in a 3-1 loss in Minnesota on Saturday. The

Blues (24-21-9) have lost seven of nine, with Halak going 1-3-2

with a 3.62 GAA during that stretch.

”Any time you’re taken out, as a player you’re going to be

angry and upset,” defenseman Erik Johnson said, ”but we weren’t

very good in front of him and didn’t give him much of a chance.

It’s not his fault at all.”

After a five-game winning streak, St. Louis has lost 13 of 17,

allowing 3.5 goals per game in that stretch.

”We have to understand that success comes from that collective

five-man effort,” coach Davis Payne said. ”This is not the time

of year where you can have any guys take off.”

Alex Steen has three goals – including the game-winner Dec. 5 –

and an assist against the Canucks this season. However, Steen has

only one goal in his last 15 games.

Vancouver has won its last two at St. Louis and three of four

overall versus the Blues.