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Canucks Preview: Team attempts to hold onto first place against the Blues

They'll now try to maintain their hold on first place in the Northwest Division when they visit the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

This contest is the last of a four-game road trip for Vancouver, which had won the first two games before a 2-1 overtime loss to Dallas on Sunday. The Canucks allowed a goal with under 30 seconds left in regulation and the Stars completed the comeback by scoring with 43 seconds remaining in overtime.

``The extra point slipped away,'' Vancouver's Matt Cooke said. ``That's not a trend we want to get into.''

The Canucks (36-21-5) had won their previous six games - all by one goal - and own a two-point lead in the Northwest. Vancouver is 19-3-4 since Christmas, a remarkable surge the team would like to keep adding to.

To do so, the Canucks will have to stop allowing opposing teams multiple chances on the power play. Both Dallas goals on Sunday came with the man advantage and Vancouver allowed the Stars to have seven power-play opportunities.

In a 3-2 win over Los Angeles on Thursday, the Canucks surrendered eight power plays to the Kings, but gave up just one goal.

``At this point, we lead the league in times short-handed,'' Canucks assistant coach Rick Bowness told the team's official Web site. ``The players have taken a tremendous amount of pride in our penalty killing knowing they're No. 1 and knowing every time they go into a rink like Dallas the other team wants to beat the No. 1 (penalty kill) in the league.''

Despite allowing the Stars to score on the power play, Vancouver remains first in the NHL, killing off 88.3 percent of its penalties. That's not good news for St. Louis (26-27-9), which comes into Tuesday's contest following a miserable performance with the man advantage.

The Blues went 0-for-10 on the power play in a 5-1 loss to Chicago on Sunday that snapped their four-game winning streak and left coach Andy Murray unhappy.

``It's a big game for us and we had absolutely no reason (to come out flat),'' Murray said. ``We needed to be better in every position - coaching, goaltending, defense and forwards.''

Before Sunday's contest, St. Louis traded Keith Tkachuk to Atlanta for forward Glen Metropolit and three draft picks, and rumors were swirling about other possible moves by the Blues before Tuesday's trade deadline.

``It's different, but you just have to think of the other guys in the room,'' said forward Bill Guerin, another player who might be dealt. ``You might be moving on, but most of the other guys are still going to be here and it's an important game for them. You've got to get out there and give it a good effort.''

Guerin leads St. Louis with 28 goals and 47 points, but is a pending free agent. Tkachuk was second on the team with 20 goals and 43 points.

Vancouver won the first two meetings with St. Louis this season after dropping the previous four matchups. The Blues have won seven of the past 10 at home in the series.



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