Bruins vs. Canucks Preview

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VANCOUVER, B.C. (AP - Boston Bruins All-Star goaltender Tim Thomas seems to have regained his composure after getting a few games off.

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The NHL-best Vancouver Canucks are hoping a day off can help Roberto Luongo get back on track.

Thomas looks to help the Northeast Division-leading Bruins win four straight games for the first time since the first few weeks of the season Saturday night when they visit a Canucks team that is looking rather ordinary.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Canucks -142 money line favorites for Saturday's game against the Bruins. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 68% of more than 57 bets for this game have been placed on the Canucks -142.

Thomas has been instrumental to Boston's success, but after surrendering 14 goals in three starts, coach Claude Julien sensed he was hitting a wall and decided to give his 36-year-old star back-to-back games off.

The rest seemed to do the trick. Thomas made 28 saves and lowered his NHL-leading goals-against average to 1.99 in Tuesday's 3-1 win over Calgary.

"My legs felt fresher tonight than they have in a little while," said Thomas, who entered Tuesday having lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time all season.

Thomas appears to be in good position to build on that win, having recorded a shutout in each of his two career starts against the Canucks.

Tuesday's victory was the third in a row for the Bruins (34-19-7), who haven't won four straight since Oct. 10-21. They're four points ahead of second-place Montreal in the Northeast.

While Vancouver's lead over Minnesota in the Northwest Division seems to be safe, the Western Conference leader hasn't played much like a Stanley Cup contender lately.

Some of these problems have stemmed from the play of Luongo, who is 1-3-0 with an .899 save percentage after winning six straight starts while posting a .950 save percentage.

After making 22 saves in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Montreal, his first regulation home defeat since Dec. 5, Luongo got the night off Thursday against St. Louis. Backup Cory Schneider stopped 28 shots in a 3-2 victory for the Canucks (39-14-9), who have alternated wins and losses in their last eight games.

Vancouver jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period behind goals from Mikael Samuelsson and Sami Salo, but again ran into trouble in the second, allowing two goals 74 seconds apart. Six of the 10 goals the Canucks have allowed in the last four games have come in the second period.

"For some reason we've struggled in the second periods at times and we were flat there after a good first," Schneider said.

The Canucks will have to be prepared for a Boston team which has tallied 13 goals while winning three straight after scoring just six in losing the previous three. The line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton is leading this turnaround, combining for five goals and eight assists during the winning streak.

"Our game kind of fell off in January because we weren't making smart plays. We were coughing up pucks, weren't moving like we usually do," said Lucic, Boston's leader with 26 goals and a Vancouver native. "These last couple of games, we're skating again, we're strong on the puck and we're winning battles. If we want to be an effective line, that's what we need to do."

These teams haven't met since Luongo stopped 41 shots in Vancouver's 3-2 shootout win in Boston last February.

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