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TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
A trip to the New York area has stalled the Vancouver Canucks' push for the Northwest Division lead - and left them wondering what's going wrong.
The Canucks look to avoid being swept by the three area clubs when they take on the New Jersey Devils at Continental Airlines Arena.
Vancouver, trailing Colorado by two points for first place in the Northwest, rolled into New York City this week riding a five-game winning streak. But things didn't go well for the Canucks in matchups with the Rangers and Islanders on Monday and Tuesday.
Vancouver erased a two-goal deficit after two periods against the lowly Rangers, only to lose 4-3 on Bobby Holik's goal with 2:41 remaining. The defeat to the Islanders was even more heartbreaking, as the Canucks blew a 3-1 lead with less than eight minutes left. Former Canuck Adrian Aucoin capped the Isles' dramatic comeback with a power-play goal 36 seconds into overtime for a 5-4 victory.
"We played real well for 55 minutes," said Vancouver's Trevor Linden, who was assessed a double minor penalty for high-sticking in the final minute of regulation that led to Aucoin's goal. "I don't know if there's any way to explain what happened at the end."
The Canucks had won the first two contests on their five-game eastern swing that concludes against New Jersey. Vancouver has still won 10 times in 13 road games.
"We managed to get a point from here, and even though it's not two, it's fine," Canucks winger Todd Bertuzzi said after the loss to the Isles. "We have a never-say-die attitude, and we showed that when we tied it."
Vancouver, though, will be trying to avoid a third straight loss against the New York area's toughest club. New Jersey will be looking for its third win in a row and eighth in 10 games as it closes the first half of its season.
The defending Stanley Cup champions, who continue to trail Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division despite their recent hot streak, are coming off a 2-1 victory over Ottawa on Tuesday.
Martin Brodeur, who will start in goal for the Eastern Conference in Sunday's All-Star game, made 24 saves.
Brodeur is again among the NHL leaders in wins (25) and goals-against average (1.89), and his 10 shutouts are six shy of breaking Tony Esposito's 34-year-old single-season, modern-era record. Brodeur has 74 career shutouts, 29 behind Terry Sawchuk's record-setting total.
"I love the game. That's it," he said. "Every time I go in the net, it's just that little black puck trying to get through me. I block everything else out."
New Jersey defenseman Brian Rafalski will make his first All-Star appearance this weekend. He was added to the East squad on Tuesday to replace teammate Scott Stevens, who missed his 13th straight game due to illness.
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