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Canucks Preview: Team hosts the Blues tonight; tries to stay No. 1 in division

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Canucks Preview: Team hosts the Blues tonight; tries to stay No. 1 in division

The Canadian Press
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Vancouver (41-23-6) has a one-point lead over Minnesota in the division with a game in hand, but hurt its cause with a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Wild on Tuesday. The Canucks led 2-0 after Jan Bulis and Matt Cooke scored in a two-minute span early, but they couldn't hold on and dropped their second straight following an 11-1-1 stretch.

"It's unfortunate we lost a point, but it was another tight game that could have gone either way and if our power play scores us a goal, it probably would have gone our way tonight," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, whose team hasn't lost three in a row since Dec. 19-22.

Vancouver was shut out on seven extra-man chances Tuesday and is 0-for-19 over the last four games. The Canucks' NHL-best penalty-killing unit has also struggled, thwarting just 77.2 per cent of opponents' chances over the last 12 games - a big drop from their 87.3 per cent mark for the season.

"Right now we're in a tough stretch," Vigneault said. "I'd rather be in a little funk now than come playoff time."

The Canucks haven't been in a funk at home, going 15-2-3 in their last 20 games there. They are playing the middle contest of a three-game homestand which concludes Saturday against Detroit.

Vancouver has taken two of three meetings with the Blues this season, outshooting them 109-60, but St. Louis (29-29-11) took the last matchup 3-1 on Feb. 27 behind two goals from Doug Weight.

The Blues leading scorer had two assists Monday, but failed to convert in the shootout as his squad lost 5-4 in Calgary. St. Louis trailed 4-2 in the third period before Petr Cajanek and Lee Stempniak scored to tie the game.

Stempniak had two goals to boost his team lead to 23 while Cajanek had a goal and an assist for the Blues, who outshot Calgary 6-0 in overtime. St. Louis is 1-2-2 in its last five contests following a stretch of six wins in seven games.

"We came back a couple times in the toughest building in the league to play in," said Weight, who has five goals and five assists in the last seven games. "Since (coach) Andy (Murray) has taken over, this team is top five in the league. We believe now that every game we go out, we're going to be in it until the end and it makes for a great feeling coming to the rink these days."

The Blues are 22-12-7 since Murray took over Dec. 11 and hold the 10th spot in the Western Conference, but would need to overcome a double-digit point deficit to make the playoffs.

Brad Boyes has two goals and six assists during a five-game point streak, but will likely face Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, who is trying to become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to record 40 wins in a season.

Vancouver may be without defenceman Willie Mitchell (sore groin) and Tommi Santala (shoulder), who are both day-to-day.

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Canucks Preview: Team hosts the Blues tonight; tries to stay No. 1 in division