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Canucks-Penguins Preview

Saturday, 11.22.2008 / 2:00 PM

Associated Press

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Canucks-Penguins Preview
Vancouver Canucks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins have picked up a point in every game this month as they've surged toward the top of the Atlantic Division. The Vancouver Canucks are one of the few teams that can say they've been as impressive in November.

Two of the NHL's hottest teams will collide Saturday afternoon at Mellon Arena, where the Penguins and Canucks will each look to extend their regulation unbeaten streaks to nine games.

Pittsburgh (12-4-3) has gone 7-0-1 in its past eight games to close to within three points of the division-leading New York Rangers. Few wins have come easy this season for the Penguins, as nine of their 19 games have gone into overtime, but they're 6-3 in games decided after regulation.

Following a shootout loss to Minnesota that ended its six-game winning streak, Pittsburgh played another close game Thursday, but pulled this one out in regulation. Petr Sykora scored a power-play goal with 2:40 left in the third period to give the Penguins a 3-2 win in Atlanta.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists.

"Every game is a close game, and that's the way the game is supposed to be played," coach Michel Therrien said. "I thought both teams played hard tonight, and we got the last chance on the power play and were able to capitalize on it."

The Canucks (12-6-2) opened November with a loss to Detroit, but they've since been on a roll. Vancouver is 6-0-2 since Nov. 4, and has outscored its opponents 22-9.

In the midst of a stretch of 11 of 13 games away from home, the Canucks' current four-game trip got off to a somewhat shaky start. They lost 2-1 in a shootout to the lowly New York Islanders on Monday, but they've rebounded nicely in their last two games.

Pavol Demitra, who returned to the lineup last Saturday after missing 10 games with a rib contusion, scored a goal in a 6-3 win over the Rangers on Wednesday, then had a goal and an assist to help top Minnesota 3-2 on Thursday.

Demitra, playing on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin - the team's leading scorers - has three goals and four assists since returning. That unit accounted for the Canucks' final two goals against the Wild.

"They are coming along. They are passing a lot," coach Alain Vigneault said of his top line. "I'd like to see them shoot a little bit more, but then you see how they score the third goal and you just say those are skilled players and they have to work itself out."

Backup Curtis Sanford got the start against Minnesota, but Roberto Luongo is expected to start against the Penguins. He's been they key to Vancouver's recent surge, going 5-0-2 with a 0.98 goals-against average in his last seven starts.

With Pittsburgh starter Marc-Andre Fleury nursing an undisclosed injury, Dany Sabourin - a former backup to Luongo in 2006-07 - is expected to get his third consecutive start. Sabourin has been excellent this season, going 4-1-1 with a 1.59 GAA, and he's 3-1 in shootouts.

Sabourin was 5-1 in shootouts last season, with the last of those victories coming in Vancouver. Sabourin and Luongo allowed just one goal apiece in the game's first 65 minutes before Kris Letang gave the Penguins a 2-1 win in the shootout.

The Canucks, who have won their last three at Mellon Arena, are making their first trip to Pittsburgh since Jan. 16, 2006.

2008-2009 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Nov 22 '08VAN 3 at PIT 1D. Sedin
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
H. Sedin2131821+61801
D. Sedin2191019+81013
A. Burrows216713+83501
R. Kesler215813+61010
P. Demitra117512+2221
K. Bieksa133811+51301
K. Wellwood168210+4042
M. Raymond215510+61030
J. Hansen173710+72300
S. Bernier21549+31110
M. Ohlund21279+102820
W. Mitchell21178+142301
S. Salo17178+21211
T. Pyatt21257+21600
A. Edler19156+32010
R. Johnson21123+1401
S. O'Brien22033+27000
R. Rypien5202-1700
J. Krog4101+0210
L. Nycholat8011+1400
D. Hordichuk19000+03100
M. Brown9000-13200
R. Davison6000-11500
M. Ouellet3000+1000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
R. Luongo1911-5-2395402.17.928
C. Sanford42-1-08892.46.910
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
E. Malkin2072431+41240
S. Crosby2071825+31620
M. Satan209716-21841
T. Kennedy205813+8802
J. Staal207512+51301
P. Sykora174812-3432
A. Goligoski194610+3630
K. Letang20099+1800
R. Fedotenko19448+01202
M. Cooke16268+22500
M. Talbot19426-31000
M. Zigomanis18235-22500
B. Orpik20134+22110
P. Dupuis18213-4601
R. Scuderi20123+0400
P. Boucher19033-21900
D. Sydor8112+5200
E. Godard20011-24600
H. Gill17011-11700
M. Eaton14000+01000
P. Bissonnette6000-11000
B. Thomas2000+0000
C. Minard2000-2000
J. Taffe1000-1200
J. Pesonen1000-1000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
M. Fleury148-3-2404302.86.907
D. Sabourin74-2-1111691.66.935