Missing Daniel Sedin hasn't slowed down the Vancouver Canucks, and a seemingly favorable schedule to close out the regular season may not, either.
The hard-charging Canucks may have a chance to gain sole possession of the NHL lead with a seventh straight victory Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
Vancouver (49-21-9) has been without Sedin, the team leader with 30 goals, since a 2-1 overtime loss at Chicago on March 21 due to a concussion.
That defeat capped a rough 2-5-1 stretch that has since become a memory, as the Canucks have won a season-high six in a row to move one point in front of St. Louis for the Western Conference lead.
Vancouver is tied with the East-leading New York Rangers - who visit Philadelphia earlier Tuesday - in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, which the Canucks won for the first time last season.
"Our first goal, obviously, every year is to get into the playoffs. We were able to finish first in our division," coach Alain Vigneault said. "Now, we're working on the other process; how high can we finish in our conference. There's a possibility that we can finish first, but what we have to do is take care of business and that business is focusing on our next game against Anaheim."
Although the Rangers hold the tiebreaker, it would appear the Canucks have the easiest path to home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, facing teams that are missing the postseason in each of their final three games. After hosting Anaheim (33-35-11), they'll visit Calgary on Thursday before hosting Edmonton two days later.
Vancouver is a combined 7-2-1 against the Alberta teams this season, but just 1-2-0 versus the Ducks.
"I find that those are the most difficult teams to play against because they have nothing to lose," left wing Chris Higgins said.
Maxim Lapierre has been a surprising contributor for the Canucks in Sedin's absence, getting two goals and three assists in the past four games to match his point total from the previous 50. His dramatic increase in production has been due in part to playing on a line with Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows.
"It's a great chance for me, and I'm just enjoying my time right now," Lapierre said. "They're unreal players. They see the ice way different than anyone else in the league. It's an easy role when you think about it; just go out there, get in front of the net and pretty much close my eyes."
Lapierre doesn't have a point in six career meetings with Anaheim, including a 4-2 home loss Jan. 15.
The Ducks, though, have been outscored 6-1 while losing back-to-back contests, including Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Edmonton.
"It's pretty sad that we're not making the postseason, but there's a reason for that," said veteran Teemu Selanne, who has three goals in four games after finding the net Sunday. "The first half was just so bad that we couldn't climb back into the playoff race. We always did before, but this time we ran out of gas."
Anaheim's season-ending three-game road trip could conclude the 41-year-old Selanne's Hall of Fame career. His 663 goals and 1,405 points rank him 12th and 19th, respectively, on those all-time NHL lists. He's one goal shy of tying Philadelphia's Jaromir Jagr for 11th.
"Obviously, I'm going to have another tough decision to make again, but I don't really know what's going to happen," said Selanne, the Ducks' leader with 65 points. "I'm going to stick with my plan, take some time off and see how I feel."
Selanne was held without a point in his last game against Vancouver after getting 30 in his previous 20 in the series.