San Jose (23-19-5) at Vancouver (29-10-7)

Cloudy Currently: Vancouver, BC
Temp: 72° F
  • Game info: 10:00 pm EST Thu Jan 20, 2011
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After earning at least one point in 17 straight games, the Vancouver Canucks struggled to maintain the same pace during their recent five-game road trip.

A return home may be just what they need to get back on track.

Vancouver looks to improve on one of the best home records in the league when it meets the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

The Canucks shot to the top of the Western Conference with a 14-0-3 stretch Dec. 8-Jan. 11 but finished their trip 2-2-1 after a 4-3 overtime loss to Colorado on Tuesday.

Despite being among the league leaders with 152 goals, Vancouver (29-10-7) was shut out twice on the trip and the conference’s second-ranked penalty kill gave up three power-play goals to the Avalanche.

Still, coach Alain Vigneault was pleased with the performance as the Canucks prepare to play four straight at home, where they are 15-3-3. Ryan Kesler(notes) scored his first goal in four games, Henrik Sedin(notes) added his NHL-best 47th assist and Roberto Luongo(notes) is 10-0-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average in his last 13 starts.

“In my mind, we out-chanced them badly in the second and the third and could’ve easily scored in the third but their goaltender was real good,” Vigneault said.

Vancouver has outscored San Jose 10-4 in two meetings this season, including a 6-1 win at home Nov. 26. The Sharks’ 4-3 loss to the Canucks on Jan. 3 began a season-high six-game skid in which they scored two or less goals in the last five.

However, San Jose (23-19-5) has rebounded to win two straight, including Monday’s 4-2 victory against Phoenix. Logan Couture(notes) scored his team-leading 20th goal while the top line of Dany Heatley(notes), Patrick Marleau(notes) and Joe Thornton(notes) all added goals.

Antti Niemi(notes) made 34 saves to win his second straight start after four consecutive losses.

Couture and Thornton haven’t scored against Vancouver this season, but Heatley has a goal and two assists while Marleau also has a goal.

“If your best players aren’t your best players, you probably don’t have a chance that night,” Thornton said.

San Jose will be without center Scott Nichol(notes) after he received a four-game suspension for a hit to the head on Coyotes defenseman David Schlemko(notes). The Sharks claimed former Canucks center Kyle Wellwood(notes) off waivers Tuesday, and he may be available to play against his former team.

Wellwood had 14 goals and 11 assists for Vancouver last season before playing the beginning of this season in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

San Jose made another move Tuesday, trading a fifth-round draft pick to Atlanta for left wing Ben Eager(notes), who won the Stanley Cup with Niemi in Chicago last season. The Sharks hope he will be ready to play against the Canucks.

“It’s good to get back to the West. I was really familiar with it the last three seasons in Chicago,” Eager told the team’s official website. “It fits my game. It’s a fast, high-tempo game and I can skate pretty well.”

San Jose has lost three of its last four in Vancouver.

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Thursday, Jan 20