St. Louis (27-23-9) at Vancouver (38-14-9)

By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011 Puck Drop: 10:00 pm EST Thu Feb 24, 2011

The slow start by the Vancouver Canucks in their last game brought back memories of their recent matchup with the St. Louis Blues to Roberto Luongo(notes).

The league-leading Canucks have struggled against the Blues this season heading into their final meeting Thursday night at Rogers Arena.

Luongo suffered his first regulation home loss since Dec. 5 in Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat to Montreal. He had been 11-0-3 with a 1.81 goals-against average in his previous 14 home starts.

St. Louis (27-23-9) had been the last team to beat him in regulation in Vancouver, also by a 3-2 score. Luongo felt that the way the Canadiens scored two goals in the first period by peppering him with 16 shots Tuesday was more similar to his last start against the Blues, who scored twice on 11 first-period shots in a 3-2 victory Feb. 14.

“It reminded me of the St. Louis game a couple weeks ago, you know, bad start and then just trying to battle back the whole game and we fall a bit short there at the end,” Luongo said.

Montreal joined St. Louis as the only teams to defeat Luongo twice in regulation this season. The Blues have won two of three meetings, with Alex Steen(notes) amassing four goals and one assist.

St. Louis has neutralized Vancouver’s league-leading 25.2 percent conversion rate on the power play, limiting the Canucks to one goal in 11 chances.

Jaroslav Halak(notes) has a 2.35 GAA in those games, but he’s on injured reserve. Ty Conklin(notes) is 2-3-0 with a 2.75 GAA in five career starts against the Canucks while Ben Bishop(notes) has never faced them.

St. Louis has been able to limit the Sedin brothers to a combined two points this season. Daniel Sedin(notes) leads the Western Conference with 78 points with Henrik second at 73.

The twins combined for six points in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Dallas before being limited to two in Tuesday’s loss.

“For whatever reason, our battle level wasn’t there,” center Ryan Kesler(notes) said. “After (the first) 10 minutes, I thought we dominated the game.”

The Canucks (38-14-9) got some good news with the returns of defensemen Dan Hamhuis(notes) and Keith Ballard(notes). Hamhuis missed five games due to a concussion, and Ballard six with a sprained knee.

“Obviously, they didn’t have a lot of practice time,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “I thought both of them, considering the short amount of time that they were with the team, I thought they were fine.”

While the Canucks are in a comfortable position atop the conference, St. Louis is in 13th place after losing consecutive home games, 5-3 to Chicago on Monday and 4-3 to Colorado on Tuesday.

“These are two tough games to lose, especially at home,” Steen said.

Chris Stewart(notes) scored his third power-play goal in as many games with St. Louis on Tuesday after being acquired last week from Colorado. The Blues are 8 for 18 with the man advantage in their last five games.

St. Louis is opening a three-game western Canada road trip.

“This road trip is pretty big for us now,” Steen said.

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