The Vancouver Canucks are making a strong push for a fifth consecutive Northwest Division title. They'll try to continue it in a matchup with the surging Phoenix Coyotes, who are just outside the Western Conference playoff picture.
Vancouver goes for a season-high sixth consecutive home win while the Coyotes look to extend their best run of the season to four victories Monday night.
Well behind Chicago and Anaheim for the top two spots in the West, the Canucks (21-11-6) are trying to hold off Minnesota for the division lead and third seed. They've managed to do that so far by going 8-2-0 in their last 10 and winning two in a row since a two-game skid.
A major factor in the Canucks' surge has been Cory Schneider. Now the No. 1 goaltender ahead of Roberto Luongo, Schneider has posted a 1.43 goals-against average while starting all 10 of those games.
Schneider turned aside 36 shots in a 5-2 victory over Calgary on Saturday.
"Our best player was our goaltender,'coach Alain Vigneault said. "... They had some quality chances, but Schneids shut the door, and we were able to jump on a few of their mistakes and score some goals.'
The Coyotes (17-15-6) have finally started to do that, recording 20 during a 4-0-1 stretch after scoring eight times while losing their previous seven games.
Shane Doan and linemates Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata combined for six points in a 4-0 victory over Colorado on Saturday.
"It doesn't do much good if we don't find a few more (points),' said Doan, the team leader with 13 goals. "We're feeling better, but ninth (place in the conference) doesn't get you anything.'
Another solid effort from goalie Mike Smith could help the Coyotes win four straight for the first time since they took their final five games of last season.
Smith played Saturday for the first time since suffering a head injury in a 2-1 loss to the Canucks on March 21 when defenseman Alex Edler - who was subsequently suspended two games - charged him. Smith earned his fifth shutout of the season with 24 saves against the Avalanche.
"He really looked solid, moved the puck well outside the net, and feet looked good inside the net," said coach Dave Tippett, whose team had gone 3-1-2 since his last appearance. "That's a really good sign.'
So is Hanzal recording seven points in the last five games after registering three in his previous 13.
Hanzal and Vrbata were sidelined with injuries as Phoenix won its second straight in Vancouver on Feb. 26 by a 4-2 score. The Coyotes are 4-1-0 in their last five road games in the series after winning twice in their previous 17 such contests.
The Canucks, though, have outscored opponents 16-5 in their last five on home ice. Daniel and Henrik Sedin lead Vancouver with eight points in those games.
Schneider surrendered goals to Kyle Chipchura, Mikkel Boedker and Antoine Vermette on Feb. 26 in his only regulation loss in four career starts in this series.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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