While the Vancouver Canucks find themselves in their usual spot atop the Northwest Division, the Detroit Red Wings are struggling in their bid for a 22nd consecutive playoff appearance with more than one-third of the shortened season in the books.
Vancouver looks to earn at least a point for the 10th time in 11 meetings as it concludes a four-game road trip in Detroit on Sunday.
The Canucks (10-3-4) are the clear favorites to win a fifth straight division title, and have won their last two games after Friday's 1-0 victory in Nashville - their sixth consecutive one-goal game.
Roberto Luongo improved to 5-0-3 with an NHL-best 1.45 goals-against average after making 23 saves. Once thought to be on his way out of town following a disappointing showing in last season's playoffs, Luongo has put himself in early consideration for the Vezina Trophy.
"I put in a lot of work during the offseason and long lockout, so I got a chance to work on some aspects of my game I wasn't happy with," Luongo said. "I feel big in the net, feel like I'm seeing the puck well and it's working out well."
Vancouver is 5-1-4 in the last 10 meetings with Detroit, as Luongo has started each of the nine that resulted in at least one point while posting a 2.77 GAA. It's unclear if he or Cory Schneider will be in net for this contest, but coach Alain Vigneault has praised Luongo's contributions.
"The first period, we were looking to find a little bit of energy and I think we built off that really solid performance from Louie in the first period,'' Vigneault said. "He permitted us to find our legs, find our execution, find our energy.''
Jimmy Howard similarly helped Detroit on Saturday, stopping 33 shots for his 12th career shutout in a 4-0 victory over Nashville. The Red Wings (8-7-3), who got goals from Daniel Cleary, Niklas Kronwall, Drew Miller and Tomas Tatar, had gone 0-3-2 over their previous five.
"We put everything to rest,'' Howard said.
It's unclear if Howard, 3-2-1 with a 2.10 GAA in his last six versus Vancouver, or backup Jonas Gustavsson will make the start in the second of a back-to-back Sunday.
Regardless of who gets the call, the Red Wings need to work on protecting leads. Three of Detroit's defeats during its skid came after it scored the first two goals of the game.
"When you haven't won, it doesn't matter what the score is, the lead's never safe,'' coach Mike Babcock said. "It's just a confidence thing. Confidence in pro sports comes and goes in a hurry, so this is a big win for us.''
No matter the results of recent meetings, neither team has been able to capitalize on power-play chances. Vancouver went 0 for 9 with the man advantage in last season's four matchups, while Detroit was a dismal 0 for 20.
The Red Wings have converted just 1 of their last 12 power-play opportunities and rank near the bottom of the league by converting 13.7 percent of their chances.
Henrik Zetterberg is scoreless in his last five versus the Canucks, while Pavel Datsyuk has just two assists in that stretch.
Henrik Sedin assisted on both of Daniel Sedin's goals in Vancouver's 4-3 shootout victory last Feb. 23 in the most recent meeting.
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