NHL Sunday Picks
Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their hockey picks and predictions for Sunday, January 18.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Vancouver Canucks, 8:05PM ET
Even the return of top goaltender Roberto Luongo wasn't enough to keep the Vancouver Canucks from another disappointing outcome.
Now, Luongo and the Canucks will try to salvage the finale of a five-game stretch at GM Place and avoid the franchise's longest home skid on Sunday night when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Vancouver captain went down with a strained groin Nov. 22 against Pittsburgh and missed more than seven weeks with the injury - a span in which the Canucks went 9-12-3, slipping from first in the Northwest Division to second behind Calgary.
Luongo had a 2.17 goals-against average and five shutouts in 19 starts before he was hurt. Though he finished with 28 saves in his return, he lost 4-1 to Phoenix on Thursday night.
Vancouver (22-19-5) trailed 4-0 after the first 28:34 en route to losing for the sixth time in seven games overall (1-4-2).
"Our confidence is being tested right now, our character is being tested, our leadership group is being tested," coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Canucks' struggles have been compounded by their futility at GM Place, where they've lost six in a row. This slide matches the franchise record set Dec. 18, 1970-Jan. 20, 1971 during the team's inaugural season, and equaled Nov. 3-18, 1978.
Vancouver is also trying to avoid dropping five straight overall since an 0-4-1 stretch from March 5-14, 2006.
Phoenix Coyotes at Edmonton Oilers, 9:05PM ET
Before Saturday, the Phoenix Coyotes hadn't won back-to-back road games all season.
On Sunday, they'll have a chance to complete a rare three-game sweep through western Canada, but to complete that feat they'll also have to end a five-game losing streak against the Edmonton Oilers.
Since coach Wayne Gretzky took over before the 2005-06 season, Phoenix had been 6-14-1 in Alberta and British Columbia entering their current trip, which began with a 6-3 loss at Minnesota that dropped the Coyotes (23-18-5) to 6-12-3 on the road this season.
But after a 4-1 win at Vancouver on Thursday, they ended Calgary's seven-game home winning streak with a 4-3 victory Saturday night. Rookie Mikkel Boedker, ending a six-game point drought, scored the game-winner and added an assist for Phoenix.
The Oilers, who've missed the postseason the last two seasons, sit on the edge of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Phoenix could end up being one of their primary competitors for a spot, as the Coyotes are currently in position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2001-02.
Posted: 1/18/09 10:15PM ET