Canucks-Blue Jackets Preview

The Associated Press

The Northwest Division-leading Vancouver Canucks have struggled to get things going of late.

The NHL-worst Columbus Blue Jackets are finally starting to show signs of life.

In the season's first meeting, slumping Vancouver kicks off a three-game road trip Thursday night looking to continue its recent dominance of Columbus, which tries to build on its first set of back-to-back wins.

After averaging a league-high 3.1 goals over the previous three seasons, Vancouver (11-6-5) finds itself in the middle of the pack with 2.8 per game. The Canucks, who've gone 3-4-3 since Feb. 15, saw their woes continue Tuesday in a 3-2 shootout loss to San Jose.

"Our record isn't as good of late, but we know we can play some better hockey," Mason Raymond said.

Right wing Jannik Hansen scored for the third consecutive game but Vancouver went 0 for 5 on the power play. The Canucks have gone 0 for 15 on the man advantage over their last six contests, scoring two or fewer four times.

"We've got to start scoring goals and that's the bottom line," captain Henrik Sedin, who added his fourth tally Tuesday, told the team's official website.

The Canucks have to be feeling good about their chances of picking up steam with two upcoming matchups against the Blue Jackets (7-12-4), whom they've outscored 42-23 during a 10-0-1 run. After this game, Vancouver visits Minnesota on Sunday before returning to Columbus on Tuesday.

Last in the league with 18 points, the Blue Jackets are coming off a couple big wins. Two days after beating Colorado 2-1, Columbus got by Edmonton 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday.

Leading the team with nine goals and 14 points, Vinny Prospal scored for the third straight game and added an assist while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped all 21 shots after replacing an ineffective Steve Mason early in the second period. Columbus has killed all 17 of its opponents' power-play opportunities over the last seven contests.

"I sense guys (have) a little bit more confidence," said coach Todd Richards, whose team outshot the Oilers 38-29. "It's nice to see the guys get rewarded for their hard work and their efforts."

While Richards was pleased with his team's overall performance, he knows there are still plenty of things to work on.

"I thought tonight there were some areas in our game where we didn't manage the puck, it was turnovers ... and I think it was just us being sloppy in our own zone," he said.

"We have to be better versus Vancouver on Thursday. ... As a coach, you always want more. You always chase perfection. You never get it, but you always chase it."

Bobrovsky has never started against the Canucks. Mason, meanwhile, is 1-4-2 with a 3.46 goals-against average over his last seven starts in the series.

Whoever is in goal will need to be wary of Daniel Sedin, who's notched four goals and 11 assists during Vancouver's 11-game point streak against Columbus.

Cory Schneider, who made 28 saves Tuesday, is 3-1-1 with a 2.17 GAA on the road. He's compiled a 2.00 mark in winning five consecutive starts against the Blue Jackets.

Roberto Luongo has seen his GAA rise 74 points to 2.19 after allowing 11 goals over his last two starts. Luongo is 3-0-1 with a 1.66 GAA over his last four matchups in the series, but he's 1-4-1 in six career visits to Columbus.

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