Preview: Flames vs. Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks don't appear to need much help in their drive for another top seed in the Western Conference playoffs, but their schedule may have provided some.
The red-hot Canucks will face two more eliminated teams in their final two games, the first of those against the Flames at Calgary on Thursday night.
Vancouver has surged to the top of the conference standings thanks to a season-high seven consecutive wins, all earned despite All-Star forward Daniel Sedin's absence due to a concussion.
Helping the Canucks is a stretch of six consecutive matchups against teams either eliminated or currently outside the top eight in the West.
Vancouver (50-21-9) rallied for a 5-4 shootout victory Tuesday over Anaheim in the latest of those, with Maxim Lapierre scoring the tying goal in regulation and the clinching one in the extra session.
"It's something we've done all year and something this group has done for a long time," coach Alain Vigneault said. "It never quits. It keeps play the way it's supposed to play and finds ways to win. ... That's what we're going to try to continue to do on Thursday."
Vancouver will try to maintain its lead over St. Louis in the West and keep driving toward a second straight Presidents' Trophy by adding to its recent success against the Flames (35-29-16).
The Canucks are 10-1-2 in the last 13 matchups, including 5-0-1 in their past six visits to Calgary. While they're among the hottest teams in the league, the Flames are 1-4-4 in their last nine, including a 3-2 overtime defeat in Vancouver on March 31.
Calgary, though, earned a 3-2 shootout win during the most recent matchup at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Feb. 11. The Flames blew a 2-0 lead during that game but outscored the Canucks 2-1 during the extra period.
Roberto Luongo started in that defeat and is 3-1-1 with a 1.56 goals-against average while starting each game during this season's series. Luongo, however, was pulled early in the second period to the derisive cheers of his home fans.
"It's getting old," said backup Cory Schneider, 1-1-0 with a 2.45 GAA in two lifetime matchups with Calgary. "I'm glad they like me and support me, but (Luongo's) a guy that has done a lot for this team and this city - and he deserves a lot better than that."
Whichever goaltender starts will face a team that's been outscored 26-14 over its last nine contests. Michael Cammalleri gave the Flames a 2-1 lead early in the third period during Saturday's game in Vancouver, but defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani tied it later in the frame and Andrew Ebbett tallied the winning goal during his return from a shattered collarbone.
The win gave the Canucks the lead in the West, while the loss secured a third straight postseason absence for Calgary.
"We still have a lot of pride and we still want to play," forward Alex Tanguay said. "It was not the season we were looking for, but there are people here spending a lot of money to watch the game. We're going to try to put on the best show possible."
The Canucks faced Flames backup goaltender Henrik Karlsson during that game but might see Miikka Kiprusoff during this one. The Calgary starter, whose next game will mark his seventh straight 70-game season and 599th of his career, is 2-7-0 with a 4.47 GAA in his last 10 against Vancouver.
Vancouver hasn't won eight in a row since its longest win streak last season from Dec. 23, 2010-Jan. 7, 2011.