NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 31st (All times Eastern)
Calgary Flames (35-29-15) at Vancouver Canucks (48-21-9), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - While the Canucks hope to have Daniel Sedin back in time for the playoffs, they have been doing just fine without their star winger so far.
Vancouver seeks a season-high sixth straight win this evening as it takes on a Calgary Flames squad on the verge of elimination from the postseason race.
The Canucks haven't had Sedin in the lineup since he suffered a concussion after taking an elbow to the head against Chicago in an overtime loss on March 21. They also haven't lost since, matching their longest winning streak of the season first done from Nov. 20-29.
Vancouver's latest run has pushed its point total to 105, one behind St. Louis for the most in the Western Conference with four games to play for both clubs. The Blues host the Blue Jackets this evening.
The Canucks are also two points back of the top spot in the overall NHL standings currently held by the East-leading Rangers, who are idle tonight with four to play.
Maxim Lapierre moved up to the first line to replace Sedin on Friday and recorded a goal and two assists in a 5-2 victory over Dallas.
"I think he's a big key to where we are in the standings," said Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, who had three assists, of Lapierre. "He's a guy that's a fourth- liner, but he's a much better player than that. We have a lot of guys on this team who play certain roles, where on other teams they might not have that role."
Chris Higgins, Sami Salo, Alexandre Burrows and Andrew Alberts also lit the lamp for the Canucks, who have won the first three of a five-game homestand that wraps on Tuesday versus the Ducks.
The Northwest Division-champion Canucks gave Cory Schneider the start after scratching Roberto Luongo late due to a stiff neck. Schneider made 28 saves, while defenseman Kevin Bieksa sat out his second game in a row due to an upper-body injury.
The Flames have lost seven of their past eight games to seriously damage their playoff chances. They sit 11th overall in the West with 85 points, four back of the Stars and Coyotes for the final two playoff spots with only three games left to play. Both Dallas and Phoenix are also in action tonight and have four games remaining on their respective schedules, meaning Calgary is likely to miss out on the playoffs for a third straight season and for the 10th time in its past 15 campaigns.
The Flames were dealt a 4-1 loss by the visiting Avalanche on Friday and didn't find the scoreboard until Jarome Iginla snapped a seven-game goal drought on his tally with just 38 seconds left in the game. Miikka Kiprsuoff allowed three goals on 23 shots.
"We were on our heels a lot in the first. We switched our lines and we played a better second and third," Flames head coach Brent Sutter said. "We controlled the game tonight, we had numerous scoring chances, we put pucks behind their defense, and we forechecked."
Calgary will hit the road one more time before ending the season with two straight at home, including a matchup with the Canucks on April 5. The Flames have lost four straight as the guest overall and six of their last nine in Vancouver.
The Canucks took the first two meetings with the Flames this year by identical 5-1 scores, but Calgary has won the past two meetings. Vancouver has still won nine of the last 12 encounters overall.
03/31 10:35:19 ET