|VAN||0||1||2||0||1 (1 - 2)||4|
|MTL||2||1||0||0||0 (0 - 3)||3|
The Vancouver Canucks are starting to play more like the team that reached the Stanley Cup finals and less like the one that spent this season's first six weeks treading water.
It's no coincidence the league's reigning Art Ross Trophy winner is leading the way.
Coming off his first hat trick in more than a year, Daniel Sedin looks to help the Canucks to an eighth win in nine tries Thursday night when they open a five-game road trip against the Montreal Canadiens.
With 17 assists during Vancouver's 9-9-1 start, Sedin wasn't playing poorly, but he also wasn't finding the back of the net. After finishing tied for fourth in the NHL with 41 goals last season - and finishing with a league-best 104 points - Sedin scored just six times during those first six weeks.
The winger has doubled that total in his last four games, helping the Canucks (16-10-1) extend a run that has them again looking like one of the Western Conference's top teams. Sedin had his first hat trick since April 2010 in Tuesday's 6-0 rout of Colorado, Vancouver's seventh win in eight games.
"That's the way a season goes," Sedin said. "It's up and down, and you're going to have some games when you're not scoring, and some games when the pucks are going in."
The Canucks are 7-2-1 when Sedin scores, something he's done only twice in 16 career meetings with Montreal.
Sedin hasn't scored in his last five versus the Canadiens (11-11-6), and as a result, his team hasn't had much success. Save for a 7-1 rout Oct. 7, 2009, in which Daniel had three assists and brother Henrik scored twice, Vancouver has totaled four goals in losing those other four games.
The Canucks have been home for their last four games and seven of 10, but they should feel confident hitting the road. Vancouver has won five of six away from Rogers Centre - including its last three - while going an impressive 9 for 26 (34.6 percent) on the power play.
Montreal, meanwhile, hasn't allowed a power-play goal at home since Oct. 24 - stopping 29 shorthanded situations - though not letting Columbus score one didn't help in Tuesday's 3-2 shootout loss.
Brian Gionta salvaged a point for the Canadiens by scoring with 1:21 left in regulation, but that didn't help ease the frustration of a team that was seeking consecutive wins for the first time since Nov. 10-12.
"We haven't had consistency for a long time here," Gionta said. "It doesn't matter whether it's on the road or at home, we've got to find ways to bring the same effort. We know what wins us games, we just aren't doing it on a consistent basis."
Though Montreal has been able to slow opponents' power plays, it has scored only once in its last 32 chances with the man advantage.
A visit from the Canucks isn't likely to help end those struggles. Vancouver has surrendered three power-play goals in 40 chances over its last 10 road games.
It's unclear who will be between the pipes for the Canucks as this trip begins, however. Roberto Luongo, making just his second start since taking a shot to the mask Nov. 13, took one Tuesday under his mask that forced him to exit in the second period.
The Montreal native is questionable Thursday.
Luongo is 0-3-0 with a 2.40 goals-against average in his last three trips home. Backup Cory Schneider has never faced the Canadiens.
|Mar 10 '12||MTL 4 at VAN 1||E. Cole|
|Dec 08 '11||VAN 4 at MTL 3 - SO||C. Hodgson|