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Canucks look to get back on track vs. suddenly hot Ducks

Feb 29, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller (9) skates after the loose puck against the Los Angeles Kings in the third period at Rogers Arena. Kings won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Still on top in the Western Conference despite their worst stretch of the season, the Vancouver Canucks once again will try to get back on track when they visit the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

The Canucks have lost six of their last seven games, going 1-5-1 in the stretch, although their lead atop the conference since Feb. 16 had only dropped from six points to two, heading into NHL play Saturday.

Vancouver is coming off a 5-1 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. It was the fourth time in their past six defeats the Canucks have scored two goals or fewer, while they have given up an average of 4.7 goals per game over the last seven contests overall.

Since allowing 10 goals to the Minnesota Wild in a zany 10-7 defeat Feb. 19, the Canucks remain suspect defensively, allowing at least four goals in three of the past four games.

“The only way you come out better for it on the other end is to work your way through it and understand that maybe there needs to be a little more desperation,” Canucks defenseman Ian Cole said. “All the cliche words … apply. So that’s really the only thing we should be focusing on at this point.”

On Saturday, the team announced an eight-year contract extension with forward Elias Pettersson, who is second on the team with 75 points (29 goals, 46 assists) in 62 games.

“We have an exciting group and believe we can do good things in the future,” said Pettersson, who has just three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games since a three-assist performance Feb. 15.

The lowly Ducks, near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, seem like a perfect opponent to get the Canucks back on track. But Anaheim is coming off victories on consecutive days for just the second time this season and scored 10 total goals while doing so.

In a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday, Frank Vatrano had two goals to increase his team-leading total to 29, while Max Jones had a goal and an assist. The victory wasn’t secured until Anaheim’s Lukas Dostal stopped Jack Hughes on a penalty shot with 2.1 seconds remaining.

Dostal ended the night with 52 saves, the most ever by a Ducks goalie while earning a win in franchise history. Only four rookie goaltenders have had more saves in a win since the 1955-56 season.

“In back-to-back games, you kind of play simple off the bat,” Jones said. “You don’t know how the legs are going to be. I think we did a good job at that in the first period of playing simple. We were a little slow coming out, but we found a way to go in with (a 2-1 lead at first intermission) and just kind of sustained that.”

The Ducks and Canucks are playing for just the second time this season and first since Nov. 28 when Vancouver earned a 3-1 home victory. They will meet again on March 31 in Vancouver.

–Field Level Media

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