Canucks-Hurricanes Preview

The Associated Press

Recent struggles may have the Vancouver Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes looking forward to a new month.

Only one of them, however, will get December off to a positive start.

The Canucks will try to win for just the third time in 11 tries Sunday when they continue a four-game road trip against the Hurricanes.

Vancouver (13-10-5) went 4-5-4 in November, capping it with Sunday's 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers in coach John Tortorella's first meeting with the team that fired him last summer.

"Once the game starts, it's about playing and trying to find a way to get a win," Tortorella told the team's official website. "That's my job, to try to get some traction with this hockey club. Once that starts, it's just, 'Let's go.'"

Consistent scoring could solve Vancouver's woes. The team is averaging 2.61 goals on the season, and 2.2 over the last 10 games while scoring more than two only twice during that stretch.

The Canucks may get some sympathy from the Hurricanes (10-11-5), who are 29th in the NHL with 2.08 goals per game. They also concluded a 6-6-2 November with a defeat, allowing four third-period goals in a 5-2 home loss to New Jersey on Friday.

The Hurricanes haven't managed more than back-to-back wins at any point this season, and that lack of consistency is a major concern for coach Kirk Muller.

"If anything, we just have to learn that if you want to be better than a .500 team, you have to be good all the time," Muller told the team's official website. "You get out of it what you put in."

Eric Staal, the team leader with six goals and 18 points, looks to get back to doing his part after being held without a point Friday. The center had nine points during a season-high seven-game streak.

"Eric's really picked up his pace. His pace is quicker now. He's going more direct. He's faster, he's angrier and he's got his confidence again," Muller said. "When he's going like that, now he looks like a power forward who's tough to contain."

That hasn't been the case in his last two meetings with the Canucks, as Staal hasn't managed a point. However, he had six over the previous five matchups.

It's unclear if the Canucks will turn to Roberto Luongo in net after he was pulled 17 seconds into the second period Sunday for giving up three goals on 10 shots.

"It's always hard to either get pulled or to give up a lot of goals," said Luongo, who was making his season-high eighth straight start. "I've just got to be better and try to come up with more saves."

He hasn't done much of that in his career at Carolina, going 1-10-0 with two ties and a 2.76 goals-against average in 13 games.

That may be enough for Tortorella to start rookie Eddie Lack, who stopped 12 of 14 shots in relief of Luongo on Sunday. The Swede is 2-2-0 with a 2.49 GAA in six games - four starts.

Daniel Sedin has been an offensive bright spot for the Canucks, tallying three goals and five assists during a five-game point streak after enduring a six-game drought. The left wing has a point in seven of nine career games against the Hurricanes, including three of four at PNC Arena.

Vancouver has dropped three straight in Carolina since a 3-2 victory on Nov. 27, 2002.

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