Red Wings-Canucks Preview

The Associated Press

While much has been made about the Detroit Red Wings' home efforts, they're starting to show significant improvement on the road.

They figure to get all they can handle in Thursday night's visit to Vancouver.

Seeking a fourth road win in five games, the Red Wings square off against the Canucks in a matchup between two of the Western Conference's top teams.

In the midst of a 17-game winning streak on its own ice, Detroit (34-16-1) has picked up the pace as the visiting team. After a lackluster start in opposing arenas, the Red Wings have taken three of four on the road to improve to 14-14-0.

Keeping things going, however, likely won't be easy. Sitting atop the West, Detroit is three points ahead of second-place Vancouver (31-15-4), which holds a big lead in the Northwest Division.

While the Canucks took the last meeting 4-2 on Dec. 21, they know they'll surely have their hands full in this one.

"They have world-class players on that side, they're very well coached," goaltender Roberto Luongo said. "They know what it takes to win hockey games and they're very disciplined. If we wanna have a chance to win, we gotta play our game plan to a 'T' and make sure we don't give those guys any free passes."

With the last matchup proving to be a very physical affair, Luongo is expecting more of the same Thursday.

"It's two of the best teams in the league going at it," he said. "Whenever there's that type of match involved, there's always going to be a lot of intensity and playoff atmosphere. Those are the fun games to be playing in."

Vancouver carries plenty of momentum into Thursday's showdown after defeating Chicago 3-2 in overtime Tuesday for its third win a row. Cody Hodgson scored his third goal in as many games before Daniel Sedin tallied his team-leading 22nd in OT.

"It's huge," goalie Cory Schneider told the Canucks' official website. "There's so many good teams in the West and we're all scrambling at the top here so anytime you can gain a point on anybody it's important."

While Schneider turned away 37 shots in improving to 9-1-0 over his last 10 games, Luongo is likely to be back in goal. Luongo is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average in his last three games versus the Red Wings.

After suffering a 7-2 loss at Montreal prior to the All-Star break, Detroit kicked off a four-game trip with its eighth win in nine games, 3-1 over Calgary on Tuesday. Center Cory Emmerton gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead in the first period before Jiri Hudler and Drew Miller scored in the third.

"Just getting off to a good start in this game and on this trip, too, playing better defensively in that first period, I thought we came out with a good push," captain Nicklas Lidstrom told the team's official website.

"This is the kind of win that we want to try and get, especially on the road, grinding it out, tied going into the third period and waiting on opportunities and capitalizing on them, too."

After surrendering four goals on 12 shots before getting pulled versus the Canadiens, Jimmy Howard bounced back to make 28 saves Tuesday in posting his NHL-best 31st win.

Howard has gone 2-3-0 with a 3.51 GAA in five career starts at Vancouver. He made 25 saves in a 2-0 win over the Canucks at home Oct. 13.

Left wing Tomas Holmstrom sat out versus the Flames with sore knees but expects to be available Thursday.

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