The Vancouver Canucks may have finished with a winning record last month, but they weren’t pleased with their latest pair of performances.
Seeking better results to start December, the Canucks continue their season-high seven-game road trip against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.
Though Vancouver (14-8-2) opened November with a loss, it went on to win eight of its next 10 games (8-0-2). However, that momentum was interrupted by division rival Calgary, which beat the Canucks 4-3 on Thursday and 3-1 on Saturday to complete a home-and-home sweep.
Rookie Cory Schneider—recalled from Manitoba on Nov. 22 due to Roberto Luongo’s groin injury—was spectacular in his NHL debut. But despite his 28-save performance, Vancouver’s lead atop the Northwest shrank to just one point ahead of both Calgary and Minnesota, tied with 29 points apiece.
“I had a lot of fun out there, it was really exciting and I think I answered a few questions about myself,” Schneider told the Canucks’ official Web site. “At the same time, we didn’t get the points we needed and Calgary’s kind of closing in on us. It was a very big game and we didn’t get the win.”
Vancouver’s struggles on special teams have contributed to last month’s lackluster finish.
The Canucks faltered on all seven power-play opportunities in their two losses to Calgary, and went 7-for-59 (11.9 percent) in 13 games in November. They allowed opponents to convert 19.0 percent (11-for-58) of their man-advantage chances.
“Right now our specialty teams are in neutral and we’ve got to find a way to get them back going,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
Vigneault’s club hopes to regroup versus Columbus, which is 2-for-49 on the power-play over its last 10 games, and has given up 10 goals trying to kill penalties in that span.
While the Canucks are 5-1-1 in their last seven road games, they’ve lost three of their last four at Nationwide Arena, including a 4-2 defeat Oct. 21.
The Blue Jackets (10-10-3) have won three straight overall matchups and are 5-2-0 in the series since Dec. 22, 2006.
Columbus’ Pascal Leclaire has compiled a 3.00 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage during the winning streak against Vancouver, but it was rookie Steve Mason who provided a lift for the Blue Jackets in their last game.
Mason posted his second shutout in three games on Saturday, making 26 saves in a 3-0 victory over visiting Washington as the Blue Jackets avoided a third consecutive defeat and halted a three-game home slide.
“He played great. If Mason continues to play like this, the way the standings are and how valuable points are, we’ve got to play him,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We’ve got to play him quite a bit.”
Mason—5-2-1 with a 2.09 GAA in eight overall starts—has been in net for three of Columbus’ last four games, but has never faced Vancouver.
Captain Rick Nash has 11 goals and four assists in 20 career games versus the Canucks, and scored twice versus Washington on Saturday. The Blue Jackets’ leader with 12 goals and 21 points, Nash has notched seven goals and eight assists in his last 13 games.
Twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who lead Vancouver with 22 points apiece, have played well in their last 15 matchups versus Columbus. Daniel, who boasts a team-high 11 goals, has seven goals and seven assists while Henrik—tops with 19 assists—has two goals and 14 assists in that span.