Canucks go for sweep of Jackets
CANUCKS (49-17-9) at BLUE JACKETS (33-30-11)
-- SNET-P (HD), Fox Sports-Ohio (HD).
-- Vancouver 9-1-0; Columbus 2-4-4.
-- This is the fourth and final meeting this season between the clubs, as Vancouver goes for the series sweep. The Blue Jackets took the League's leading team past regulation in both games in Vancouver, but the Canucks prevailed on each occasion, once in overtime and once in a shootout. The lone game in Ohio's capital city was not close at all though, as the Canucks matched their season-high in goals in a 7-3 rout. Overall, Vancouver has won six straight over the Jackets, and three in a row in Columbus.
-- The Canucks are putting some historical touches on their magnificent season, which looks more and more like it will culminate with the Presidents' Trophy. With their 3-1 victory in Atlanta on Friday -- their ninth win in the last 10 games -- the Canucks set new franchise records for road wins in a season with 24 and for points in a season with 107. They have seven points more than the Flyers for tops in the League, but Philadelphia does have a game in hand, however. Vancouver also looks to reach the 50-win plateau for the first time in its history, as well as match a franchise record with an eighth straight road win on Sunday against the struggling Blue Jackets. Columbus has lost 12 of 14 and has been shut out in three of its last five games, including its last contests at home.
-- With Vancouver cruising to the postseason, maybe the biggest decision coach Alain Vigneault has to make is how much rest to give Roberto Luongo down the stretch. Luongo made several critical stops in the win over Atlanta, and his numbers recently have been extraordinary. He leads all NHL netminders in wins (35), is in second place in save percentage (.927), and is in third place in goals against average (2.18).
"I've been on hot streaks before but I can't really compare this," said Luongo, who has gone 22 straight games without giving up more than three goals. "I just feel like every aspect of my game is good and strong. When you're playing well technically, the pucks seem to find you. That's what's going on right now."
As for Vigneault, it doesn't appear as if he wants to change the formula for success.
"At the beginning of the season, we had talked about giving him (Luongo) about 60 games and our backup (Cory Schneider) anywhere between 20 and 25," he said. "I think the next game will be Schneid's 20th game, and we're going to stick to that plan."
-- The Jackets are certainly hoping to see Schneider instead of Luongo, as the latter is 5-0-0 with a 1.79 goals-against average in his last five road starts. Whoever's in the opposing net, Columbus will try to break out of a tremendous scoring slump. The Jackets have tallied just 16 goals in their last eight games, and nine of those goals were scored in two games alone.
"We just have to work through this, stick with it and the goals will come," captain Rick Nash
said following Thursday's 3-0 loss at Phoenix. "Right now, we're snake-bitten and nothing is going in.
"I've seen tough times here, but this is frustrating because you know you have a good enough team that can play with the best in the League and we're making mistakes to lose games. This is the time of the season where everyone is playing their best hockey and we're playing our best for periods of time."
-- Nash has five points (three goals, two assists) in his previous four games. …Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, who has 95 points to lead the League, had his nine-game point-scoring streak end in Atlanta, but he still has 16 points over the last 10 games.
-- For the Blue Jackets, winger Ethan Moreau
(foot) missed the last game and defenseman Grant Clitsome
(knee) has sat out the last three games, as both players are day-to-day. Kristian Huselius
(lower body) remains on IR, and defenseman Anton Stralman
(lower body) hasn't played in a month. …For the Canucks, Mikael Samuelsson (leg) has been sidelined since March 18 and Tanner Glass (upper body) hasn’t played since March 10. They are both day-to-day, while Manny Malhotra is out for the season after undergoing eye surgery last week. Andrew Alberts also remains unavailable with a broken wrist.
-- The Canucks are 35-0-3 when leading after two periods.
-- "Ask me when the next time I'm going to use him in a shootout is. Come on, ask me, I dare you." -- Alain Vigneault, jokingly responding to a question about Daniel Sedin’s missed penalty shot in the game against Atlanta