The Canucks will seek a third straight victory on Sunday night as they open a four-game road trip in Calgary, where Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo(notes) had major problems in a pair of early season visits.
The Flames (20-11-5) looked like one of the best teams in the Western Conference during their fast start, which included a pair of 5-3 home wins over Vancouver in October. In those games, they scored nine goals on 41 shots in five periods against Luongo.
But Calgary went 1-3-2 in its final six games before Christmas, including three home losses in that stretch. A late Mark Giordano(notes) goal helped the Flames salvage a point from Wednesday’s game against St. Louis, but the Blues won 2-1 in a shootout.
“We had a good effort (Wednesday), definitely a step in the right direction,” Giordano said, “but we need to start getting some wins.”
A lack of offense has often been an issue lately, with the Flames totaling 19 goals in 10 December games. Leading scorer Jarome Iginla(notes) has just two of his 19 goals during that stretch, while star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester(notes) has one assist in his last 11 games after totaling 13 points in his first 25 contests.
“I think we are working hard in the offensive zone but we are not creative enough,” Iginla told the Flames’ official Web site. “It’s getting to the right spots for the shots.
“We’ve hit a rough patch,” the captain added. “Every team goes through it at certain times of the year. It is how you respond to it. This is a chance to move up in the standings and get feeling good about ourselves.”
That’s just what Vancouver (22-16-0) has been doing lately, pulling within one point of its western Canadian rivals in the Northwest Division, with both teams on the fringes of playoff position in the West.
Luongo may have a good chance to reverse his fortunes at the Pengrowth Saddledome if he continues his hot streak. The workhorse had a 2.02 goals-against average during Vancouver’s recent eight-game homestand, playing every minute and leading the Canucks to a 6-2-0 record.
Vancouver bookended the Christmas break with a pair of 4-1 home victories, beating Nashville on Tuesday before a win Saturday night against Edmonton.
Daniel Sedin(notes) had a goal and two assists in each game, with his twin brother Henrik totaling two goals and three assists in that stretch. Henrik Sedin(notes) is having perhaps his best season, as he’s tied for second in the NHL with 49 points.
A bigger challenge for the Canucks may be sustaining their success during this road trip, which will carry them south to Phoenix, St. Louis and Dallas and into 2010. They are just 6-10-0 on the road, and they haven’t played outside of Vancouver since Dec. 8.
The Canucks have lost five of their last seven visits to Calgary.