Canucks, Ducks set for pivotal battle

By Brett Huston
Stats Writer

Anaheim (39-32-6) at Vancouver (42-25-9), 10 p.m. EDT

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Vancouver Canucks have
picked up an NHL-best 41 points since the beginning of February,
making them a team no one wants to face in the postseason.

Based on their play over the past two weeks, no one figures to
be anxious to face the Anaheim Ducks, either.

The Ducks must first qualify for the playoffs, and earning two
key points Wednesday night in Vancouver won’t be easy as the
Canucks return to GM Place looking for their 12th straight home

Vancouver (42-25-9) was 12 points behind Calgary in the
Northwest Division at the end of January, but are now hockey’s
hottest team. The Canucks are 20-5-1 since Feb. 1, and lead the
second-place Flames by one point with six games remaining.

The Canucks and Flames will meet for the final time in the
regular season on Tuesday in Vancouver.

“Back in January not many people thought we’d be in the spot we
are, but we’ve worked hard for where we are,” said Roberto
Luongo, who went 4-2-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average on
Vancouver’s six-game road trip. “We need to make sure here in
the last few games that we keep pushing and try to get that
third seed.”

The Ducks (39-32-6) waited considerably longer to start
performing like a playoff team, but have recently made a
considerable move up the standings. Anaheim was 12th in the
Western Conference on March 18 – five points out of playoff
position – but it’s won seven of eight to rise into a tie for

The only loss in that stretch came against Edmonton on Friday,
but the Ducks got revenge on Tuesday, scoring three power-play
goals in a 5-3 road win over the Oilers.

“We were not in the playoff picture for a while,” said Anaheim
defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who had a goal and two assists.
“We’re just putting everything else aside, forgetting about the
standings and things like that. Forget about who’s doing what
and just plugging away, and that’s what we have to keep doing.”

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Niedermayer has been one of the catalysts to a surge that’s been
built largely on success with the man advantage. The Ducks are a
stunning 14-for-36 (38.9 percent) on the power play in their
last eight games, and Niedermayer and fellow defenseman Chris
Pronger have combined for 13 points.

Anaheim can’t afford to let up, though, as five teams separated
by just three points are fighting for the final two playoff
slots in the West.

“We’re just giving ourselves a chance to live another day and
that’s all you can do,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said.

Securing their first win in four trips to Vancouver will be a
difficult challenge. The Canucks haven’t lost at home since Jan.
31, outscoring their opponents 42-19 during their
franchise-record 11-game home winning streak.

Thursday’s contest also will be their first at home since March
19. After dropping two of three to start their swing, Vancouver
won its next three, and with a 2-1 overtime victory in Minnesota
on Tuesday jumped past idle Calgary into the division lead.

Henrik Sedin scored in overtime, and he’s tallied seven goals
and nine assists in his past 11 games. Over that stretch, the
line of Alex Burrows, Henrik and twin brother Daniel Sedin have
combined for 19 goals and 41 points.

“They’ve done it in pressure moments, and that’s good for us
with the playoffs around the corner,” Canucks coach Alain
Vigneault said.

Anaheim’s top line, meanwhile, has done pretty well for itself
lately. Ryan Getzlaf, rookie Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry have
combined for 27 points in the Ducks’ last eight games.

Perry has a goal and six assists against Vancouver this season,
though the Canucks have won two of the three meetings. Five of
Perry’s points came in a 7-6 shootout loss on Oct. 31.