|NHL Preview: Vancouver Canucks at Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Sunday, 21 October 2007 02:02|
On the road again
It might be unfair to expect another shutout from Pascal Leclaire. The Columbus Blue Jackets in the playoffs, however, doesn't seem impossible anymore.
Leclaire looks to remain perfect at home on Sunday when the surprising Blue Jackets face the Vancouver Canucks for the first time this season.
After recording one shutout and a 3.13 goals-against average in 59 games over his first two seasons, Leclaire already has a league-leading three shutouts in his four games this month. He ranks among the NHL leaders in goals-against average (1.26) and save percentage (.953).
Leclaire hasn't allowed a goal in either of his two home games, extending his scoreless streak at Nationwide Arena to 150:22, dating back to last season. He has stopped all 60 shots in home wins over Anaheim and Phoenix.
Leclaire made 21 saves and Rick Nash had a goal and an assist as Columbus rebounded from back-to-back losses with a 3-0 victory Friday at Buffalo.
The Blue Jackets shut down a Sabres team that had scored 18 goals during a three-game win streak.
"We've been solid since the beginning of the season," Leclaire said. "It's always a team effort in a game like this."
Michael Peca scored his first goal of the season for the Blue Jackets (3-2-1), who are off to their best start joining the NHL in 2000. They have never finished above 11th place in the Western Conference in their six prior seasons.
"We're a team that wants to win, and we're not going to settle for mediocrity," Peca said. "We're not going to settle for complacency. We're no longer the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets. We want to be a force in our conference."
Another key to Columbus' fast start has been the play of Nash, the team leader with four goals and eight points.
A big season from the star forward is imperative if the Blue Jackets are to reach the playoffs for the first time. He scored a career-high 41 goals in 2003-04 and netted 31 in 2005-06 before slipping to 27 last year.
This is the first of four straight road games in six nights for the Canucks (3-4-0), who are 2-0 away from home this season.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Columbus -112 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 82% of bets for this game have been placed on Vancouver +102 (View NHL Bet Percentages).
One bad stretch was again too much to overcome for Vancouver in a 4-2 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.
The Canucks gave up three goals in a 6:53 stretch of the second period after allowing three goals in a 3:20 span of the third period in Monday's 4-2 loss to San Jose.
"For some reason we're getting five, six minutes putting us behind the 8-ball and it's a tough league to come back in," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
Roberto Luongo continued his unimpressive start, yielding three goals on only 16 shots. His 3.15 GAA is down nearly a full goal from last season (2.29), when he finished sixth in the league.
Luongo has played well against the Blue Jackets, going 4-2-2 with a 1.85 GAA and three shutouts.
Friday marked the first time since the season opener that both Daniel and Henrik Sedin failed to register a point in the same game. The two have combined for five goals and 11 assists this season.
Vancouver had won four straight against Columbus before going 0-1-1 in the final two meetings last season.
by: Staff Writers - Email Us
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