In just his third season as a starter, Nashville’s Tomas Vokoun is making a strong case to be mentioned among the league’s best goaltenders.
Vokoun will try to become the first goalie to reach 20 wins this season and help the Predators to their seventh straight victory when they meet the struggling Vancouver Canucks.
The six-game streak is the Predators longest since they opened this season with a franchise-record eight-game run.
Vokoun entered Tuesday tied with Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff and Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars for most wins. Kiprusoff was given the night off with a sore hip and Turco took the loss in Dallas’ 4-1 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings.
After losing three straight starts from Oct. 29-Nov. 5, Vokoun has been on a tear, going 12-3-0 with one shutout. However, he is 3-6-1 in 15 career appearances, including 11 starts, against the Canucks.
Upshall has two goals and two assists in a three-game points streak. He also has three goals and four assists in his last seven contests.
Vancouver native Paul Kariya had an assist in the win over the Flames, giving him two goals and five assists in a three-game streak. He is averaging a point a game in his hometown, tallying 18 goals and 19 assists in 37 contests.
Nashville is 1-8-1 in its last 10 games in Vancouver and has not scored more than three goals in any of those contests. The Canucks have outscored the Predators 38-18 in those games
The Canucks are looking to end a season-high five game losing streak—all at GM Place and each by one goal.
Vancouver was swept by Calgary in a two-game set, falling 2-1 on Monday after a 6-5 shootout loss on Friday.
“Our division is a tough division and we’ve got to find a way to be better in it,” said Canucks coach Marc Crawford. “I don’t think anybody can look at our effort and say we’re upset, but I don’t think we can be fooled by it either. We’ve got to find ways to win these divisional games, they’re very important in the standings.”
After this contest, the Canucks play 14 of their next 18 on the road. Vancouver has won only seven of 17 road games this season (7-8-2).
Vancouver and Nashville will meet three more times in a 12-day span from March 2-14.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 27): Predators - 51 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Central Division. Canucks - 45 points, 3rd place, 1 PB, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Steve Sullivan, 16 goals; Kariya and Kimmo Timonen, 22 assists; Kariya, 34 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 94 PIM. Canucks - Markus Naslund, 20 goals and 40 points; Henrik Sedin, 24 assists; Todd Bertuzzi, 66 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 27): Predators - Power play: 19.4 percent (45 for 232), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.5 percent (194 for 227), 3rd. Canucks - Power play: 18.3 percent (45 for 246), 13th. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (171 for 221), 16th.
SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 3-0-1.
LAST MEETING: March 16, 2004; Tied, 2-2. At Vancouver, British Columbia, Nashville’s Adam Hall scored the equalizer with 22 seconds to play in regulation. Ryan Kesler and Trevor Linden scored 38 seconds apart for the Canucks.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 8-4-3 on the road; Canucks - 13-3-3 at home.