After failing to gain a share of first place in the tightly packed Northwest Division, the Vancouver Canucks will take another shot at moving closer to the top as they visit the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
The Canucks (35-25-10) are fourth in the Northwest, one point behind third-place Minnesota and two behind co-leaders Calgary and Colorado with those three teams all in action on Thursday. Vancouver is also eighth in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Nashville.
The Canucks had a chance to move into a tie atop the division Wednesday, but fell 4-1 at reigning Stanley Cup champion Anaheim to halt their three-game winning streak, during which they scored 12 goals.
“I think it was more of a change of pace than anything else,” said Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who was pulled at 4:03 of the second period after giving up four goals on 19 shots. “The good thing is we play (Thursday) night, right away. So we have a chance to put it behind us right away and focus for tomorrow night’s game - which is obviously a huge game for us.”
Luongo will likely get his 20th consecutive start, and the Canucks hope he can rebound from Wednesday’s subpar performance. That came after he allowed only five goals on 66 shots during Vancouver’s three-game run.
He has won his last three starts while posting a 1.95 goals-against average against Phoenix (35-30-5), including a 27-save performance in a 2-1 shootout victory at Jobing.com Arena on Dec. 22.
Daniel Sedin has five assists in that span and Naslund only one, but neither has found the back of the net since a 3-2 overtime win at Minnesota on Feb. 19.
Daniel Sedin, though, had a goal in the last matchup at Phoenix, but was limited to one shot and an assist in a 4-3 home loss to the Coyotes on Jan. 11. Naslund has only an assist in the last three meetings.
The Coyotes start play 10th in the West, five points back of Vancouver in the playoff chase and hoping to carry some momentum from a 3-2 shootout win over the Ducks on Tuesday. Phoenix rallied from a two-goal, second-period deficit and Radim Vrbata netted the lone shootout goal as the Coyotes improved to 1-2-0 on their five-game homestand.
“This was a huge game and we needed to find a way to get two points,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who spurred the comeback with a goal in the second. “When we were down, everyone on the bench was relaxed. We knew how important this game was to us and had to somehow get back in the game.”
Doan, who leads Phoenix with 66 points, has been solid of late, scoring a goal in four of the last five games after a seven-game goal drought. The right wing has two goals and five assists in his last five games against the Canucks.
The teams close out their season series at Vancouver on Monday after the Canucks visit Dallas and the Coyotes host Edmonton on Saturday.
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