BLUE JACKETS (10-12-4) VS. CANUCKS (11-7-6)
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OH
TUESDAY, 7 P.M.
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
The Vancouver Canucks began their mini three-game road trip in Columbus less than a week ago, and tonight, they return to Nationwide Arena to close it out.
A recent surge from the awakened Minnesota Wild has seen the Canucks' once-comfortable lead atop the Northwest Division vanish. Both Vancouver and Minnesota are dead even at 28 points entering tonight's game in Columbus, they have played the same number of games (24) and the Wild hold the upper hand due to 10 regulation/overtime wins compared to the Canucks' nine. Things have certainly shifted for the Canucks over the past few weeks, who are battling injury trouble up front without Ryan Kesler and on the blue line, missing stalwart Kevin Bieksa patrolling the back end.
Vancouver has dropped four straight games (0-2-2 in that stretch) and has not eclipsed the two-goal mark in each of those four losses. The Canucks mustered two goals in Minnesota on Sunday, but the Wild kept pouring it and eventually emerged with a 4-2 win. They're looking to avoid a loss tonight and a five-game losing streak, which would be the club's longest since going 0-5-3 through a brutal eight-game stretch in January 2009.
While Cory Schneider has been the least of the Canucks' worries - their power play has been non-existent in the last eight games - coach Alain Vigneault reportedly turns back to veteran Roberto Luongo tonight against the Blue Jackets, who have won five straight game and are suddenly back in the Western Conference playoff picture with the second half of the schedule upon them.
The Blue Jackets have certainly had some memorable games against Luongo over the years, but not so much for the Canucks' netminder. Luongo hasn't won a game at Nationwide Arena since an opening night overtime win on Oct. 6, 2006 -- when the Canucks had to rally from a 2-0 deficit in the third period to get two points.
Columbus is expected to start the hot hand between the pipes, and that's the recently-named NHL No. 1 star of the week in Sergei Bobrovsky. The 24-year-old netminder is 6-1-1 in his last eight appearances and went 4-0-0 during the past week for Columbus, posting a goals-against average of 0.72 and a save percentage of .972 in those games.
- Columbus has won five-straight games and earned at least one point in its last seven outings (5-0-2); both marks are one shy of the franchise records – six wins from Mar. 24-Apr. 3, 2006 and 4-0-2-2 from Jan. 15-Feb. 6, 2001, respectively.
- The Blue Jackets have killed off 27 of their last 28 penalties and now rank fifth in the NHL with a PK% of 85.7. They had a lengthy streak broken by Johan Franzen's third period power play goal on Sunday, which came early in a two-man advantage for Detroit.
- Nick Foligno has tallied 1-6-7 in his last seven games played.
LEFT WING/CENTER | #21
2013 STATS: 6-6-12, 24 GP
Raymond has really picked up his game of late, and the Canucks have needed it. The speedy forward has made a full recovery from a frightening back injury suffered in the 2010 playoffs, and is centering Vancouver's second line and can also play the left wing. Would the Canucks prefer more goal-scoring from the 27-year-old speedster? Absolutely, but there's no denying his solid two-way play is helping the Canucks in all three zones.
VANCOUVER: Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler
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