Predators vs. Canucks Preview

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VANCOUVER, B.C. (AP) - The Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators have split two low-scoring meetings this season, and goals have been hard to come by for both teams of late.

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They'll meet Thursday night in Vancouver, with the Canucks looking to pad their lead atop the NHL and the Predators seeking a desperately needed win to boost their playoff hopes.

Vancouver (40-15-9) won 2-1 over Nashville on Jan. 26, and the Predators responded with a 3-1 victory Feb. 17. The Canucks, converting 24.5 percent on the power play for the season, went 1 for 9 in those games while the Predators (32-23-9) were 0 for 7.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Canucks -182 money line favorites for Thursday's game against the Predators. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 60% of more than 57 bets for this game have been placed on the Canucks -182.

These teams are the best in the Western Conference on the penalty kill, with Vancouver at 85.9 percent and Nashville at 85.5. The Canucks have killed off 39 of 40 chances in their last 11 home games.

Offense, though, has been the issue for the usually high-scoring Canucks recently. They have totaled nine goals in splitting their last four games, and were outshot 31-26 in a 2-1 shootout win over Columbus on Tuesday.

"They backed off and clogged up the neutral zone and made it hard for us to come through," coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our execution at some points in the game needed to be better. At the end of the day, we found a way to win and that got us two big points."

Nashville hasn't been much better in the offensive end. The Predators opened a four-game road trip with a 2-1 shootout loss to Edmonton on Tuesday and have scored eight goals during a 1-4-1 stretch.

Nashville remains outside the West's top eight.

"We wanted the two points," coach Barry Trotz said. "We need two points every night right now. We are still trailing the pack by a little bit here. Getting one is disappointing. But at the same time, one is better than nothing."

The Predators will need more from their top goal scorers if they want to start getting two points consistently. None of Patric Hornqvist's 17 goals have come in the last eight games, while Sergei Kostitsyn has managed one of his 16 in the same span.

Blake Geoffrion, the first fourth-generation player in the NHL, scored his first career goal for Nashville on Tuesday.

"It feels unbelievable to get that first goal," Geoffrion said. "I was so happy. Hopefully there is a lot more to come."

Vancouver's Sedin brothers continue to lead the conference in points, with 79 from Daniel and 74 from Henrik. Neither had any during the last two games, but Daniel has recorded nine during a six-game streak against the Predators.

The Canucks are 3-2-0 on a six-game homestand that precedes a five-game trip. They are trying to avoid complacency.

"Things are good for us, we're on top of the standings," goaltender Roberto Luongo said. "But teams are creeping up slowly so we gotta make sure we play hard every night."

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