Wednesday, November 30, 2011

{allcanada} Montreal (10-11-4) at San Jose (13-7-1)

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Montreal (10-11-4) at San Jose (13-7-1)

With their offense struggling, the San Jose Sharks were particularly frustrated after their most recent effort.

The Sharks will try to avoid matching a season-high three-game losing streak Thursday night when they host the Montreal Canadiens.

After scoring 13 goals over a three-game stretch, San Jose has tallied three over the last three contests, losing 2-0 at Los Angeles on Monday.

The Sharks (13-7-1) are one of the NHL's most aggressive teams, averaging 34.2 shots per game, and they had 33 Monday. However, defenseman Dan Boyle thought the team came out slow, managing 20 shots in the first two periods and nine on five power plays.

"The first two periods there was not a lot of emotion," Boyle said. "We didn't really work to get our chances. Five-on-five we had nothing for the first two periods and weren't working hard enough to win. There are 82 games, and you have got to find a way to get up for every one."

Logan Couture, who had 32 goals last season, has one in his last eight games, while Ryan Clowe has been held without one in the last 10 contests. Joe Thornton, the team leader with 21 points, has one assist in the last three games.

Besides its top producers going cold, a big concern for the Sharks is their declining power play. They've failed to convert on their last 10 chances, going 0 for 8 the last two games after going 16 for 70 (22.9 percent).

However, San Jose plays its next four games at home, where it has won four of six after opening the season 2-2-1 at HP Pavilion.

They'll try to continue improving at home against Montreal, which has lost three straight, including a 4-1 defeat at Anaheim on Wednesday. The Canadiens (10-11-4) scored early in the first period, but the Ducks tied it before the first intermission and took the lead on two power-play goals.

Montreal had killed off 36 consecutive power plays over the previous 11 games.

"They won the special teams part of the game and scored two on the power play, and that was the difference. We've got to be better that way," coach Jacques Martin said.

The Canadiens were without left wing Max Pacioretty, who leads the team with 10 goals, after the league suspended him three games for a hit to the head of Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang on Saturday.

Without him, Montreal was limited to a season-low 20 shots, including three in the final period. In their own offensive slump, the Canadiens were 0 for 7 on the power play, dropping to 0 for 23 in the last five games. They've failed to put more than 27 shots on goal in each of the last three contests.

Tomas Plekanec, who leads the team with 21 points, had an assist on Andrei Kostitsyn's goal, but was a minus-1 and has a minus-5 rating during the last three games. Captain Brian Gionta is a minus-10 in the last four.

The Canadiens won the most recent meeting against the Sharks, 3-1 on Dec. 4, but are 0-4-1 in their last five visits to San Jose since a 3-2 overtime victory in 1999.

Team Comparison

Team G W L OTL Pts Standings GF GA Road/Home
Montreal 25 10 11 4 24 5th, Northeast 62 64 6-6-0 Road
San Jose 21 13 7 1 27 4th, Pacific 60 48 6-4-1 Home

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{allcanada} Michael Buble steals Rihanna thunder on U.S. album chart

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Buble's album "Christmas" topped the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart on Wednesday, against stiff competition from new releases by Nickelback, Rihanna, Daughtry and Mary J. Blige.

Buble's "Christmas" was released in late October ahead of the holiday season. But it saw a rise in sales over the Thanksgiving weekend, outselling "Here And Now," the seventh studio album by fellow Canadians Nickelback, by a mere 419 units to reach No. 1, with Nickelback at No. 2.

Buble's resurgence to the top spot from last week's No. 2 position may be replicated by other releases from earlier this year, ahead of Wednesday's Grammy nominations concert.

"With the Grammy nominations concert airing live tonight, there should be renewed interest in some of the top releases from earlier this year, as well as current and upcoming new recordings, taking us through December," said Jim Donio, president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers.

Despite Rihanna's album topping the iTunes chart even before its release last week, "Talk That Talk" debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, while the album's first single, "We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris, dropped to No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Last week's chart topper Drake fell to No. 4 with "Take Care," while Mary J. Blige's "My Life II: The Journey Continues, Act I" entered at No. 5, while Justin Bieber's "Under The Mistletoe" fell to No. 6 despite a gain in sales from last week.

Adele's "21" dropped to No. 7, the first the time album has dropped out of the top 5 since it entered 40 weeks ago. The rest of the top 10 are rounded out by Daughtry's new release, "Break the Spell," at No. 8, Scotty McCreery's "Clear As Day" at No. 9 and Coldplay's "Mylo Xyloto" at No. 10.

LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It" edged out Rihanna for the top spot on the Hot 100 singles chart, while Bruno Mars's "It Will Rain" from the "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" soundtrack held steady at No. 3 as the film broke the $500 million worldwide box office benchmark earlier this week.

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CRANBROOK, B.C. -- Edmonton's Kevin Martin and Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton are off to perfect starts at the Capitol One Canada Cup.

Martin led his rink to a tight 8-7 win over fellow Edmonton skip Kevin Koe in Wednesday's third draw, while Stoughton needed just seven ends to defeat Winnipeg's Mike McEwen 7-2.

Martin broke open a close match with Koe by taking two in the seventh end and stealing one in the eighth to open an 8-5 lead.

Koe came back with one in the ninth, but could only steal one in the 10th and final end and came up short.

In other Draw 3 action, Saskatoon's Steve Laycock defeated Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., 9-7.

Martin and Stoughton lead the men's standings at 2-0, followed by Laycock, Koe and Howard at 1-1

McEwen and Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., are at 0-2.

On the women's side, Ottawa's Rachel Homan scored three in an extra end to beat Scotties champion Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., 10-7.

Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink recovered from an earlier defeat to beat Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones 9-7.

Chelsea Carey of Morden, Man., who was idle in Wednesday's late draw, leads the women's standings at 2-0.

Kleibrink, Jones, Homan, Holland and Edmonton's Heather Nedohin are all 1-1.

Saskatoon's Stefanie Lawton is winless at 0-2.

A guaranteed berth in the 2013 Olympic curling trials in Winnipeg are on the line this week, along with invitations to next year's Canada Cup in Moose Jaw, Sask., and the 2013 Continental Cup in Penticton, B.C.

For the first time in the Canada Cup's nine-year history, only seven teams on each side are competing in the round-robin, down from 10 in prior years.

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{allcanada} Ducks beat Canadiens 4-1 to snap 7-game skid

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Corey Perry and captain Ryan Getzlaf each had a goal and two assists, Jonas Hiller made 19 saves, and the Anaheim Ducks snapped a seven-game skid with a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

Rookie Devante Smith-Pelly scored a power-play goal and Getzlaf snapped a personal 14-game goal drought for the Ducks, who killed seven penalties in just their third victory in 19 games since mid-October. Niklas Hagman added an empty-net goal for Anaheim, which hadn't won since Nov. 11.

Andrei Kostitsyn scored a first-period goal and Peter Budaj stopped 23 shots for the Canadiens, who opened a three-game California road trip with their third straight loss. Montreal played without goals leader Max Pacioretty, who served the first game of his three-game suspension for a hit to the head of Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang.

Bobby Ryan, the subject of numerous trade rumors in recent days, received an ovation when he was introduced in the Ducks' starting lineup. The American forward assisted on Smith-Pelly's goal, but he has just two goals in 11 games while getting dropped from his position alongside Perry and Getzlaf on the Ducks' top line.

The Ducks avoided an eight-game slump, which would have matched the longest in franchise history, with offensive leadership from Perry and Getzlaf, their two biggest stars and longtime linemates. Anaheim had lost eight of nine at Honda Center, but played solid defense in front of Hiller for just its second home win since Oct. 16.

The Canadiens went ahead in the opening minutes when Tomas Plekanec fed Kostitsyn for his first goal since returning from a 10-game injury absence. Anaheim skated in its now-usual fog during the first period until it was forced to kill three consecutive penalties, energizing the bench and the building by shutting down the NHL's 29th-ranked road power play.

Getzlaf evened it when Perry found him with a cross-ice pass with 19 seconds left in the first period. The Anaheim captain hadn't scored since Oct. 27, although he had a six-game assist streak entering this game.

Anaheim failed to score during a 90-second, two-man advantage early in the second period, but Smith-Pelly put the Ducks ahead moments later when he alertly swatted a rebound onto the ice and smacked it past Budaj before the Montreal goalie could react. The 19-year-old scored just the second goal in 22 games in his rookie season, snapping an eight-game drought.

Perry added another power-play goal early in the third, expertly redirecting Francois Beauchemin's shot into the top corner of the net for the reigning NHL MVP's 11th goal.

Hagman added his first goal since joining the Ducks two weeks ago, scoring with 1:29 to play.

NOTES: Anaheim is 5-0-1 in its last six games against Montreal. This game was the clubs' only meeting this season. … Longtime former Montreal captain Saku Koivu played his third game against the Canadiens since moving to Anaheim. Koivu was the Habs' captain for 10 of his 13 seasons in Montreal, matching Jean Beliveau for the longest captaincy in franchise history. … Montreal D Andrei Markov traveled to California, but didn't make his return from a yearlong absence with torn ligaments in his right knee. Markov, who hasn't played since Nov. 13, 2010, could return later on the trip in San Jose or Los Angeles.

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{allcanada} Brodziak scores SO winner for Wild over Oilers

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP)—Kyle Brodziak scored in regulation and added the winner in the sixth round of the shootout as the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Wednesday night to move into first place in the NHL standings.

Devin Setoguchi also scored in regulation for the Wild (15-7-3), who jumped past Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh with their seventh win in nine games. Niklas Backstrom made 28 saves for the win.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle had goals for the Oilers (12-10-3), who have lost three straight. Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 27 shots.

Bad blood from the previous meeting between the teams created a rough start in the rematch. Edmonton's Darcy Hordichuk and Minnesota's Brad Staubitz dropped the gloves at 2:12 in an anticipated fight.

Edmonton took a 1-0 lead at 9:58 when defenseman Andy Sutton made a beautiful pass from the half boards to Nugent-Hopkins, who scored his 11th goal.

The Oilers doubled their advantage with a power-play goal 5:10 into the second when Shawn Horcoff tipped Nugent-Hopkins' pass to Eberle, who buried a backhand.

The Wild cut the deficit to 2-1 at 11:31 off a giveaway by Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert. Setoguchi tipped in a pass from Mikko Koivu, who extended his point streak to seven games—tying a career high.

The Wild tied it 3:20 later during a power play as Brodziak, a former Oilers player, had his rebound bounce off his body and dribble under Khabibulin. The play stood after a video review.

Edmonton had a chance to regain the lead seven minutes into the third, but Horcoff couldn't get control of a breakaway pass in time to make a move on Backstrom.

Minnesota had a power play for the final 1:53 of overtime, after Ryan Smyth was penalized for tripping, but Edmonton's penalty killers limited the Wild's chances.

NOTES: It was the fourth of six meetings between the teams this season. The Wild won the first two games in shootouts before Edmonton won last week in Minnesota, breaking a 17-game losing streak there. … Sutton returned from a groin injury, taking the place of rookie Colton Teubert. … Edmonton was without Taylor Hall (shoulder), Cam Barker, Ben Eager, Corey Potter and Anton Lander, who is out because of an infection following a cut on his hand. Ryan O'Marra was recalled from Oklahoma City of the AHL to take Lander's place on the fourth line. … Minnesota's Marek Zidlicky and Guillaume Latendresse are out indefinitely because of concussions. D Justin Falk (back) is day-to-day. … Minnesota made one lineup move, replacing forward Casey Wellman with Colton Gilles.

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REGINA -- A familiar name in Canadian pairs figure skating is taking to the ice in Regina over the next five days with a new goal.

Jessica Dube is at the Skate Canada Challenge where she will be attempting to qualify in singles.

The 24-year-old from Drummondville, Que., was a three-time Canadian pairs champion with partner Bryce Davison and represented Canada at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics.

Despite their successes, the couple were plagued with injuries, including a horrible gash to Dube's face when she was hit by the blade of Davison's skate in 2007.

A serious knee injury in 2010 ultimately ended Davison's skating career and he is now at Skate Canada Challenge as a coach.

Dube skated as a singles skater that season, though this year she has also competed in pairs with new partner Sebastien Wolfe.

More than 500 skaters will compete in their disciplines over the next five days at the Co-operators Centre.

"It's a great event to come and watch. Lots of colour, lots of great music, and of course, lots of great skating," said Debbie Rodger of the organizing committee.

The Skate Canada Challenge is the national championship for pre-novice skaters, and also serves as a qualifying competition for novice, junior and senior skaters who will advance to the Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Moncton.

Sherry-Lyn Zuro, manager of events for Skate Canada, said among the group is likely at least one future Olympian.

"At one point in time (former Olympians) have definitely skated at Challenge or what used to be called divisionals." she said.

This event has taken place in Mississauga, Ont., over the better part of the decade but Skate Canada is happy to have found another location for the high-profile event.

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DRUMMONDVILLE, Que. -- Xavier Ouellet and Cedrick Paquette scored in the shootout Wednesday as the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defeated the Drummondville Voltigeurs 3-2 in the lone game in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Emil Sylvegard had the only goal in the shootout for Drummondville.

After Paquette scored in the sixth round, it was up to the Voltigeurs' Jerome Verrier to extend things, but he couldn't beat Armada goalie Etienne Marcoux.

Ouellet and Jess Tanguy scored in regulation for Blaineville-Broisbriand (15-13-2), while Raphael Pouliot picked up two assists. Marcoux made 32 saves in regulation and overtime to get the win.

Tommy Giroux and Jerome Raymond replied for Drummondville (12-14-4) with goals in regulation. Domenic Graham started in net for the Voltigeurs, stopping all 10 shots he faced.

Giroux came out for the second period and allowed two goals on 18 shots the rest of the way.

The Armada finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while the Voltigeurs wound up 2-for-6.

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{allcanada} Lucic scores 2, Bruins win 12th in 13 games

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TORONTO (AP)—Milan Lucic scored twice and David Krejci added a goal and two assists for the Boston Bruins, who beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Wednesday night for their 12th win in 13 games.

The defending Stanley Cup champions rebounded from a slow start this season and went 12-0-1 in November, marking the first time since January 1969 that the Bruins went an entire month without a regulation loss.

Tim Thomas made 34 saves and earned his ninth consecutive win.

Zdeno Chara, Benoit Pouliot and Brad Marchand also scored for Boston (15-7-1), which hasn't lost in regulation since Oct. 29 at Montreal.

Mikhail Grabovski, Joffrey Lupul and Matt Frattin had goals for Toronto (14-9-2).

The Maple Leafs pushed the Bruins to their limit in the first of a home-and-home series between teams near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. They will face off again in Boston on Saturday night.

This game lived up to the hype as the quick skating teams took turns mounting rushes during the first period, in which the Bruins held a slight edge in possession and shots, 17-16.

But the game was tied 1-1, with each team scoring on a power play.

Grabovski netted Toronto's first goal at 7:29, taking a perfect cross-ice pass from Clarke MacArthur and beating Thomas with a backhander on the rush. It was his sixth goal of the season.

Jonas Gustavsson was strong early in goal for the Maple Leafs but was beaten after Boston's extended 5-on-3 power play. The Bruins used crisp cross-ice passes to take apart the Leafs' penalty-killers, and Lucic roofed a shot from the side of the net at 15:08 as the first penalty expired.

Shortly after, NHL scoring leader Phil Kessel was sent in on a breakaway but couldn't beat Thomas with a deke.

The game didn't slow down in the second period. Krejci gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead at 3:33 by going hard to the net and knocking home a rebound off the rush. Kessel then found Lupul on a 2-on-1 break to get Toronto even at 7:00.

Even Chara's goal that made it 3-2 at 15:30 came off the rush. The big defenseman stepped up and beat Gustavsson short side with a heavy wrist shot the Toronto goalie should have had.

Pouliot put Boston ahead 4-2 early in the third period, and Frattin responded less than three minutes later to get Toronto back within a goal. The Maple Leafs couldn't get any closer.

Lucic put it away with his second goal of the night at 15:21, and Marchand scored into an empty net in the final minute.

NOTES: The Maple Leafs were 7-6-1 in November. … Cody Franson, Colton Orr and Philippe Dupuis sat out for Toronto. … The Bruins scratched Jordan Caron and Steve Kampfer. … Toronto goalie James Reimer, sidelined since Oct. 22 with concussion-like symptoms, is expected to be the backup Saturday in Boston.

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The Calgary Stampeders have filed a complaint with the Canadian Football League over the Toronto Argonauts' recruitment of defensive coordinator Chris Jones, who was under contract to the Stampeders through 2012.

The league is looking into the matter.

While no one with the Argos contacted Jones and no permission was requested from the Stampeders, it's clear Jones and Argos coach-in-waiting Scott Milanovich were in touch, although it's not clear who reached out to whom.

Jones apparently cleared out his belongings on Wednesday in Calgary and told head coach John Hufnagel about his intentions on Tuesday afternoon.

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NEW YORK, NY - November 30, 2011 - "LIVE! with Kelly" is announcing the next group of guest co-hosts joining Kelly Ripa on the popular morning talk show:

December 12, 2011 - Film, television ("Private Practice") and theatre star TAYE DIGGS will kick off the week with Kelly. Stopping by will be the winners of the latest edition of "The Amazing Race," and Kelly and Taye will take a look the hottest toys for the 2011 holiday season.

December 13, 2011 - Musician and actor KEVIN JONAS, eldest of the superstar Jonas Brothers band, sits in as the guest co-host on December 13. Kelly and Kevin's guests that day will be actress Michelle Pfeiffer and R&B singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton. They'll also showcase holiday gifts for every type of man.

December 14, 2011 - Veteran broadcaster, host of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" and longtime friend of the show BRYANT GUMBEL will join Kelly at the host chat desk. Kelly and Bryant will speak with actor Jude Law and the winner of "The Biggest Loser," and look at fun stocking stuffers for the season.

December 15-16, 2011 - Award-winning singer MICHAEL BUBLƒ returns to co-host with Kelly on December 15-16. Their guest lineup includes Robert Downey, Jr. and hot country band Lady Antebellum on Thursday, and Daniel Craig on Friday. Kelly and Michael also will highlight the latest in tech gifts, and Kelly will reveal a list of her favorite holiday gift items. USA, LLC

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LAKE LOUISE, Alta. -- You can almost hear crickets chirping around the Canadian women's alpine ski team at Lake Louise.

A perfect storm of retirements and injuries have left the host country with no medal prospects for the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup downhills and super-G this weekend.

In fact, the Canadians could be hard-pressed to put a woman in the top 30.

The Canadian women haven't won in Lake Louise like the men have, but they've still managed four podium finishes since 2006.

While women from this country are moving up the international rankings in the technical events of slalom and giant slalom, the cupboard on the speed team is virtually bare.

Two developmental team racers -- Sarah Freeman of Pincher Creek, Alta., and Tess Davies of Canmore, Alta., -- participated in Wednesday's training run for the first of two downhills starting Friday.

"Right now, we're kind of looking at 'Oh my God, we have no speed,"' Alpine Canada president Max Gartner said.

Davies, 20, was 54th and 19-year-old Freeman finished 59th in training. They'll make their World Cup debuts in Friday's downhill.

Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden of Switzerland was the fastest in training in a time of one minute 54.37 seconds. Daniela Merighetti of Italy was second, 0.38 seconds back. Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. was 0.48 seconds behind the leader in third.

Emily Brydon won silver and bronze in the Lake Louise downhills two years ago. The Fernie, B.C., native retired after the 2010 Winter Olympics. Britt Janyk of Whistler, B.C., a bronze medallist in 2007, did the same after last season.

Kelly VanderBeek, a bronze medallist in super-G in 2006, has yet to return to racing. The Kitchener, Ont., skier has undergone two knee surgeries since crashing in Val d'Isere, France, just weeks out from the Winter Games.

Larisa Yurkiw of Owen Sound, Ont., was considered the heir-apparent behind Brydon, Janyk and VanderBeek. She also seriously injured her knee in Val d'Isere, just one day before VanderBeek.

VanderBeek, 28, and Yurkiw, 23, have both started skiing again, but neither were ready to race Lake Louise.

"I'm hoping to be racing this year," VanderBeek said Wednesday. "I'll need another month or month and a half of training before I'll be race-ready."

Prior to the Winter Games, Alpine Canada established a women's "2010 Acceleration Team" to develop female racers and push the women ahead of them on the national team.

While that project helped stock the technical team with slalom and GS talent, the speed team has yet to benefit much from it.

Kelsey Serwa and Georgia Simmerling were prospects on the 2010 Acceleration Team, but have since switched to ski cross.

Serwa, from Kelowna, B.C., won this year's world championship in ski cross. Simmerling, from North Vancouver, B.C., raced at Lake Louise last year and then defected to that discipline.

Ski cross falls under Alpine Canada's jurisdiction, so success there is good for the organization. It's just not helping a women's speed program that once produced world champion Melanie Turgeon and Olympic downhill champion Kerrin-Lee Gartner.

Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., has posted top-10 results in World Cup slalom and giant slalom. She and Madison McLeish of Canmore, Alta., are expected to join Davies and Freeman in Sunday's super-G.

Skiers such as Gagnon, 22, may eventually excel in speed events. Gartner would rather she mastered slalom and GS before focusing on downhill and super-G.

Rushing young skiers into speed events is dangerous, so it will take time to rebuild the women's team, he said.

"We have to be extremely patient," Gartner said. "We could take some of our best skiers and say 'OK, you're going to become downhillers' and what we would get is a whole bunch of injuries again.

"While I would like to have results tomorrow, I think on the women's speed side, we have to look long term and make sure they're good enough skiers to develop mentally and physically to the point where they're ready."

He points out that overall World Cup champion Maria Riesch-Hoefl of Germany and multiple world champion Anja Paerson of Sweden had success in technical races first and then speed events.

"The downhills have changed," he said. "You have to be a better technical skier now."

The men's speed and technical teams, as well as the women's technical squad, all receive funding from Own The Podium, which doles out money based on a sport's Olympic medal potential. The women's speed team currently receives no money from OTP.

"That's where we need to get out and find some money that's not OTP-related and start investing ourselves," Gartner said.

In the meantime, the Canadian team needs VanderBeek and Yurkiw back racing to foster and inspire skiers such as Freeman and Davies.

VanderBeek, working as a television broadcaster at Lake Louise, accompanied the two racers during their course inspection Wednesday and offered advice.

But VanderBeek isn't yet able to race down the mountain and provide them valuable feedback just prior to their runs, which is guidance VanderBeek once received from Turgeon.

On the bright side for Davies, a lack of veterans on the national speed team means the door is wide open for her to make her mark.

"It's as much an opportunity as it is a bit of a disadvantage," Davies said. "We don't have those veterans to look up to, but who knows? We probably wouldn't be starting if we had those veterans in here.

"It's pretty cool to get to start. I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity I get." USA, LLC

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{allcanada} Columbus (6-15-3) at Calgary (10-12-1), Inc. USA, LLC

Columbus (6-15-3) at Calgary (10-12-1)

After earning his first shutout of the season, Miikka Kiprusoff seems like an excellent choice to start the Calgary Flames' next game.

Kiprusoff has never lost in regulation at home against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, who visit Thursday night as the Flames try for their first three-game win streak.

Calgary (10-12-1) won 1-0 over Nashville on Tuesday as Kiprusoff made 26 saves for his first shutout in his last 34 starts. He's been sharp against Central Division foes this season, posting a 2.02 goals-against average despite splitting eight starts.

"I think we played pretty smart," he said. "They only had one or two very good chances."

The Flames would like their chances against Columbus (6-15-3) if Kiprusoff gets the call. He's 11-0-2 with a 1.81 GAA in 13 starts at the Saddledome against the Blue Jackets.

Calgary is 14-4-2 all-time at home versus Columbus.

Coach Brent Sutter used backup Henrik Karlsson in the teams' first meeting this season, a 4-1 loss at Columbus on Nov. 21. Karlsson made 26 saves as he was beaten by Curtis Sanford, who had 27.

Sanford could make his eighth straight start for Columbus. He has posted a 1.61 GAA while replacing the struggling Steve Mason, who is 0-3-1 with a 4.60 GAA in five career starts at Calgary.

The Flames will be without defenseman Mark Giordano, who was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered Tuesday. Giordano ranks second on the team in ice time, and he scored Calgary's goal in the first matchup with Columbus.

"He's one of your top defenseman and he plays a lot of minutes and certainly his minutes are hard minutes because he plays hard," Sutter said. "But again, as a group we'll have to again make sure that we cover for that loss and everyone just has to pull their socks up, and our lineup will be our lineup and whoever plays will have to do a good job for us."

Calgary has won consecutive games for the second time. Derek Smith had the lone goal Tuesday, becoming the sixth different Flames skater to score over the last two contests.

"Everyone's contributing," Sutter said. "It's just not about this guy scoring, this guy scoring. Everyone's contributing the way they're playing in all areas of the ice, which is really important, and that's the team play we talked about."

Columbus has dropped two straight after a 3-0-2 stretch. The Blue Jackets began a four-game swing through Canada with Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Vancouver.

"I think we have to take it game-by-game," captain Rick Nash told the Blue Jackets' official website. "We've had a good stretch here, but we can't let this be a setback. We've been playing well and we're staying in games. Coming back with a couple of wins off this road trip is going to be huge."

Jeff Carter has gone four straight games without a goal since his two-goal effort in the first meeting with Calgary. Carter failed to register a point in his first five meetings with the Flames when he played for Philadelphia.

Team Comparison

Team G W L OTL Pts Standings GF GA Road/Home
Columbus 24 6 15 3 15 5th, Central 55 79 1-8-2 Road
Calgary 23 10 12 1 21 4th, Northwest 51 60 5-5-1 Home USA, LLC

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{allcanada} Nashville (11-9-4) at Vancouver (14-9-1), Inc. USA, LLC

Nashville (11-9-4) at Vancouver (14-9-1)

It seems unlikely that Roberto Luongo will go down in history as hockey's version of Wally Pipp, but backup Cory Schneider is not giving Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault any reason to go back to his No. 1 goaltender.

Schneider, anticipated to make a seventh straight start, looks to lead the Canucks to their sixth win in a row Thursday night against the struggling Nashville Predators.

Daniel Sedin, David Booth, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows all scored for Vancouver (14-9-1) in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Columbus, but Schneider was again the story of the game.

He made a career-high 47 saves and has a 0.79 goals-against average with two shutouts during the five-game winning streak, stopping 164 of 168 shots.

"You almost don't even think about it," Schneider said. "It just kind of happens and you're seeing the puck well and you're moving and you're anticipating."

Schneider was given a chance when Luongo sustained an upper-body injury against the New York Islanders on Nov. 13. Luongo has been healthy enough to start the last four games, but Vigneault seems content to ride Schneider for as long as he can.

Luongo's demotion to the bench resembles the legacy of Pipp, who famously was replaced by Lou Gehrig in the New York Yankees lineup in 1925. Gehrig would go on to start the next 2,130 games.

Schneider had been used sparingly during most of his first three seasons with the Canucks, and although starting back-to-back games is not something he is accustomed to, he doesn't seem to be fazed.

"I haven't played this many games (consecutively) at the NHL level," Schneider said. "It's been a little while, but once you get into that rhythm, it's something you don't really forget."

Schneider has never faced the Predators (11-9-4).

Luongo got the start against Nashville on Oct. 20 in these teams' first meeting since Vancouver won in six games in last season's Western Conference semifinals. He stopped 25 shots in a 5-1 victory.

The Canucks built a 4-1 first-period lead on goals by Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Dale Weise and Chris Higgins, leading to the removal of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne before the start of the second period.

Rinne is mired in a career-worst five-game losing streak. He has a 3.44 GAA during his skid but played well Tuesday, stopping 28 shots in a 1-0 loss to Calgary. The Predators, who are concluding a five-game trip, fell to 1-4-1 in their last six contests.

While Rinne hasn't played well lately, Nashville's offense hasn't been much better. The Predators, who rank near the bottom of the NHL with an average of 26.2 shots, have been limited to two goals or fewer in five straight games.

"We have to get a little more greasy in these one-puck games where it's 1-0," coach Barry Trotz said. "You've got to get to the blue paint, get that mental drive and see if you can find a loose puck and put pucks in there. We need to get a little more of a shoot-first mentality."

Patric Hornqvist and Craig Smith, who are tied for the team lead with seven goals, have been mostly responsible for Nashville's offensive woes. Hornqvist hasn't scored in 10 games, while Smith's drought is at nine.

Kesler, meanwhile, has been heating up, registering three goals and four assists during the winning streak after recording two goals and five assists in his first 14 games.

Team Comparison

Team G W L OTL Pts Standings GF GA Road/Home
Nashville 24 11 9 4 26 4th, Central 60 63 7-6-1 Road
Vancouver 24 14 9 1 29 2nd, Northwest 73 60 6-3-1 Home USA, LLC

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{allcanada} Phoenix (13-7-3) at Winnipeg (9-11-4), Inc. USA, LLC

Phoenix (13-7-3) at Winnipeg (9-11-4)

A recent defensive revival has the Phoenix Coyotes on the verge of matching their longest win streak this season.

When they return to their former home for the first time Thursday night, the Coyotes will try to earn a third straight win by adding to the Winnipeg Jets' recent struggles in their own end.

Phoenix's 5-0 loss to Vancouver on Friday was its most lopsided of the season, but the Coyotes (13-7-3) have bounced back by allowing one goal over the past two games.

They kept Chicago off the scoreboard until the final 42.9 seconds of a 4-1 road victory Tuesday, with Mike Smith stopping 24 shots.

"We got in their face early in the game and were able to get a couple of goals to help take the pressure off and silence the crowd," Smith said. "And then we just kept it up the whole game."

With Smith so far experiencing one of his best seasons - he finished November 8-2-1 with a 1.80 goals-against average - the Coyotes have allowed two goals or fewer in 15 contests.

Phoenix has also gotten plenty of help lately from Radim Vrbata. The winger has scored 11 of his team-best 12 goals over the past 14 games, and he had a goal and an assist in Tuesday's victory.

Ray Whitney added a goal and two assists.

"You try to play the same way every game and sometimes you have more luck than other times," said Vrbata, who had four goals and three assists during the Coyotes' other three-game winning streak - Oct. 27-Nov. 2. "Right now, it seems like the puck is going in for me, so hopefully it will continue like that."

While Vrbata has never scored in 16 career games against Winnipeg (9-11-4), the Coyotes haven't had much trouble getting the puck in the net in the series. They've 13-1-0 with a tie lifetime against the former Atlanta Thrashers, whom they've outscored 23-15 during a six-game win streak.

That includes a 4-1 home victory Oct. 15 in the Jets' first game against the franchise that left Winnipeg following the 1995-96 season. Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson spoiled the Jets' visit with a pair of goals while Smith stopped 18 shots.

Winnipeg could again have trouble defensively as it's given up a combined 10 goals in consecutive defeats. The Jets allowed three of those in the final 10:25 of a 6-4 loss to visiting Ottawa on Tuesday after Evander Kane scored twice in the third period to give his team a lead.

"To tell you I'm disappointed would be putting it mildly," coach Claude Noel said. "I didn't think we played very intelligently. We didn't play certainly with our minds. We had some energy but I thought it was a poor game in a lot of areas."

Coyotes captain Shane Doan is returning to the city where he made his NHL debut and is among three players from the original franchise still in the league along with Anaheim's Teemu Selanne and Edmonton goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.

Doan has recorded a point in each of the past six wins against the current Jets franchise, totaling three goals and five assists. Defenseman Keith Yandle also has six assists in four games in the series.

Team Comparison

Team G W L OTL Pts Standings GF GA Road/Home
Phoenix 23 13 7 3 29 1st, Pacific 65 57 7-3-1 Road
Winnipeg 24 9 11 4 22 4th, Southeast 70 80 5-4-0 Home USA, LLC

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