Canucks aim for first overall; All Canadian teams in action

The Sports Network
4/7/2012 3:39:29 PM
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(Sports Network) - Although they locked up the Northwest Division title two weeks ago, the Vancouver Canucks will have something to play for on the final day of the regular season, as they host the lowly Edmonton Oilers tonight at Rogers Arena.

The Canucks will continue their fight for the top seed in the West and the Presidents' Trophy when they take the ice tonight. Vancouver can lock up the top seed in the conference with a point in tonight's game or a loss by St. Louis in its regular-season finale against Dallas.

Vancouver also enters the final day of the NHL's regular season tied with the New York Rangers for the league's best record at 109 points. The Rangers, who host Washington tonight, hold the tiebreaker over the Canucks and can claim the Presidents' Trophy with a win over the Capitals.

Not surprisingly, Vancouver has gotten the better of the last-place Oilers this season, winning four of the five matchups between the Northwest Division foes. The Canucks have won eight of 11 overall in this series and Edmonton has lost in seven of its last eight trips to Vancouver.

The Canucks had their longest winning streak of the season snapped in their last contest, dropping a 3-2 regulation decision in Calgary to halt a seven- game tear. Mike Cammalleri scored twice in the third period to help lift the Flames to the win and deal Vancouver its first regulation defeat since March 19.

Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen lit the lamp for Vancouver, while Cory Schneider made 25 saves in the loss.

"They really took it to us in the third and scored three goals," said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault.

The Canucks are finishing the regular season with six of their last seven games at home. Vancouver has a strong 26-10-4 record as the host this year.

Vancouver is still without forward Daniel Sedin, who will miss his ninth straight game with a concussion. There is still no timetable for Sedin's return and he is expected to miss at least the start of his team's opening playoff series.

Canucks forward Zack Kassian is also questionable for tonight after missing the last game with an upper-body injury.

The Oilers will miss the playoffs for a sixth straight season and enter the final day of the campaign having lost two straight and four of their last five games. Edmonton was dealt an overtime loss by visiting Anaheim on Thursday, as Ryan Getzlaf scored 1:12 into the extra session to lift the Ducks to a 3-2 decision.

Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle both scored for the Oilers, who dropped their final four home games of the season and ended the year with an 18-17-6 record at Rexall Place. Devan Dubnyk gave up all three goals on 17 shots.

The Oilers have a dismal 14-22-4 record on the road this year.

Maple Leafs at Canadiens

(Sports Network) - Two of the NHL's biggest rivals will wrap up disappointing seasons tonight, as the Montreal Canadiens host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre in the season finale for both clubs.

Montreal will finish last in the Eastern Conference this season and miss the playoffs for a second straight spring. Toronto, meanwhile, is just four points ahead of Montreal in the East standings and had its franchise-record postseason drought extended to seven seasons.

Toronto has taken three of five encounters against the hated Canadiens this season and the Maple Leafs have also won three in a row and five of their last seven tests in Montreal.

The Maple Leafs are 2-0-1 over their last three games and are coming off Thursday's 3-2 overtime win against visiting Tampa Bay. Dion Phaneuf scored 4:01 into the extra session to lift Toronto to victory in its final home test of the season.

"We talked about wanting to win at home for our fans in the final home game," said Phaneuf. "All of our focus was on winning this one for them and we feel good about tonight."

Tim Connolly and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, with Gardiner's goal tying the game late in the third period. Ben Scrivens made 35 saves in the win -- only the Maple Leafs' 10th since the All-Star break (10-17-5).

The Maple Leafs finished the season with an 18-16-7 record at home and the club is 17-20-3 as the guest.

Montreal has also gained a point in three straight contests, but has gone 1-0-2 over those tilts. The Canadiens dropped a 2-1 shootout decision at Carolina on Thursday to finish their road slate with a 15-20-6 mark. Montreal hasn't fared much better at home this year, posting a 15-15-10 record at the Bell Centre.

Eric Staal scored the game-winning goal in the third round of the shootout for the Hurricanes. Staal went in on goal with speed, making a quick deke and lifting the puck past the stick side of Habs goalie Peter Budaj to seal the victory.

Blake Geoffrion netted the only goal for the Canadiens, while Budaj was a hard-luck loser, making 28 saves on 29 shots through overtime.

"We're pleased in the fact that nobody quit and it was great effort on many guys' part," Canadiens head coach Randy Cunneyworth.

With regular No. 1 goaltender Carey Price out with a concussion, Budaj is expected to start the season finale for Montreal. Toronto's top two goaltenders, Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer are also injured, meaning Scrivens could get the call again tonight.

Senators at Devils

(Sports Network) - The Ottawa Senators figure to have a tough first-round matchup in the playoffs regardless of whether they finish as the seventh or eighth seed.

The Sens will try to close out their regular season with a victory this afternoon and build some needed momentum as they battle the postseason-bound New Jersey Devils.

Ottawa comes into play on Saturday as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with 92 points, setting them up for a first-round matchup with the Northeast Division-champion Boston Bruins. However, a regulation loss tonight to the Devils, coupled with a victory by the eighth-seeded Capitals and at least a point gained by the Southeast Division-leading Panthers would knock the Senators down to the eighth spot. That would make their first-round foes the East-leading New York Rangers.

The Devils are locked into the sixth seed with 100 points and will meet the winner of the Southeast Division.

Ottawa dropped its second game in a row on Thursday as it lost 3-1 to a Boston club that didn't even bring Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron to town.

Jason Spezza scored his career high-tying 34th goal for the Senators, while defenseman Erik Karlsson had an assist to up his point total on the season to 78, tops among all NHL defensemen. Ben Bishop made 24 saves in defeat.

Ottawa will clinch the seventh seed with a point tonight.

"We're just going to try to go out and play, try to stay away from bad habits and it will be what it will be on Saturday night," Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson said about their final game of the regular season.

Ottawa will look to close its regular season with a fourth straight road win and takes on a New Jersey club that carries a three-game winning streak at home into this matchup.

The Devils are also looking to peak heading into the postseason as they won their fifth straight game on Thursday to match a season high. Petr Sykora had the winner in the third period to lift New Jersey to a 2-1 win over Detroit.

Sykora reached 20 goals for the 11th time in his past 12 NHL seasons, while Alexei Ponikarovsky also scored. Martin Brodeur made 23 stops and logged 30 wins in a season for the 14th time in his career.

"These guys can roll lines all game at you and it's nice to get a win against them," said Brodeur. "We got some bounces tonight and we're able to take advantage of them."

New Jersey is 2-0-1 versus Ottawa this season and has won 11 of its past 14 at home in this series.

Ducks at Flames

(Sports Network) - The Anaheim Ducks will bring a close to their season-ending three-game road trip this afternoon when they go for a series victory against the Calgary Flames.

The Ducks opened their trip with a shootout loss in Vancouver on Tuesday, but snapped a three-game slide on Thursday night with a 3-2 overtime victory against Edmonton.

Ryan Getzlaf scored the winner 1:12 into the bonus frame as he chased down a missed Edmonton shot at the opposing blue line and raced in before slipping a backhander into the net.

Bobby Ryan and Andrew Cogliano both scored for the Ducks, while Jeff Deslauriers gave up two goals on 26 shots in the win against his former club.

"It was nice to get the win here because we want to finish this season strong and go into the summer with our heads held high," said Cogliano.

Anaheim won for only the second time in its past nine on the road.

The Ducks are 6-0-1 in their past seven versus the Flames and have won 13 of the past 17 encounters between the clubs. They have won consecutive meetings versus Calgary following a 1-0 road setback on Jan. 12 that opened the four- game season series.

Like the Ducks, the Flames conclude their regular season this afternoon that did not yield a trip to the postseason. Calgary is looking to finish on a winning streak after snapping a three-game slide with Thursday's 3-2 win over the visiting Canucks.

The Flames were held scoreless over the first two periods before Mike Cammalleri scored twice in the final frame sandwiched around a Curtis Glencross tally. Miikka Kiprusoff made 32 saves as Calgary won for only the second time in its past 10 games. Both of those victories came at home.

"In the first period, [Kiprusoff] made some big saves for us to keep us in it," Flames head coach Brent Sutter said. "Our emotion level wasn't where it needed to be."

Flames forward Akim Aliu recorded his first career point with an assist on Cammalleri's first goal.

Lightning at Jets

(Sports Network) - Although the Lightning will miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons, Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos enters tonight's season finale with a chance at reaching 60 goals.

Stamkos will shoot for the rare feat tonight, as the Lightning visit the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre in the 2011-12 finale for both teams.

The 22-year-old Stamkos has scored nine goals over his last eight games, bringing his franchise-record and league-leading total to 59 goals. With just one more marker, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 draft would become the first NHLer to reach 60 tallies since Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals for Washington in 2007-08. Prior to Ovechkin, nobody had posted a 60-goal season in the NHL since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr both did it for Pittsburgh in 1995-96.

Winnipeg, meanwhile, will complete its first season since relocating from Atlanta tonight. Although the Jets fell short in their quest for a playoff spot, the club had a fairly successful first season in Manitoba after the Thrashers franchise moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg over the summer.

Winnipeg played its best hockey in front of the home crowd, going 23-13-4 at the MTS Centre this season. The Jets will finish the season at home this evening after posting a 2-1-1 record during their recent four-game road trip.

The Jets completed their road schedule with a 14-22-5 record after losing to the New York Islanders on Thursday. Michael Grabner scored two goals in the third period for New York, including the game-winner inside the final minute, to lift the Islanders to the 5-4 decision at Nassau Coliseum.

Tobias Enstrom, Andrew Ladd, Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien supplied the offense for Winnipeg, while Chris Mason made 23 saves in defeat.

"We didn't quit and it was good character by the group to battle back," Jets forward Evander Kane said. "It's unfortunate the way it ended up with them scoring in the last minute. That's definitely disappointing."

The Lightning are also out of the playoff picture just one year after coming within one victory of reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. Tampa Bay was also done in by its inability to win on the road, as the Bolts were 25-14-2 at home and enter tonight's game with a dismal 12-22-6 record as the guest.

Tampa Bay is closing the season on a three-game road trip and is 0-1-1 so far on the swing. The Lightning were dealt a 5-2 setback Wednesday night in Montreal and then lost an overtime decision in Toronto the following night. Dion Phaneuf scored 4:01 into the extra session to lift the Maple Leafs to the 3-2 decision.

Stamkos and Martin St. Louis scored against Toronto, while Dwayne Roloson gave up three goals on 31 shots. The goal by St. Louis was his 25th of the season, giving him at least 25 goals in a team-record nine straight campaigns.

"We were in this game, I mean we had 40 shots, but their goaltender played hard," said Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher. "We gave a good effort tonight, but just fell short."

A win or an overtime/shootout loss tonight would give Tampa Bay its second straight season with a record above .500. The Lightning were 46-25-11 in 2010-11.

The Jets have won three of five against Tampa Bay this season, but the Lightning have still claimed 13 of their last 16 tests against the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise.

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