NHL

Flames-Canucks Preview

Vancouver and Calgary both made surprising runs to the playoffs last season and were expected to contend for a spot again in a Pacific Division that seemed wide open.

Goals have been tough to come by lately for both teams, though, resulting in them sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

The Canucks will have a new look on defense with Dan Hamhuis back in the lineup as they try to avoid a fourth straight defeat when they host the Flames on Saturday night.

Calgary (22-25-3) finished third in the Pacific in 2014-15 and won a physical six-game first-round series with Vancouver (20-19-12) in the postseason. Neither team will be returning, though, unless they find a way to consistently put the puck in the net.

The Canucks sit fifth in the division and have lost back-to-back games by 2-1 scores, falling to Nashville on Jan. 26 before the All-Star break and losing in a shootout to Columbus on Thursday.

Linden Vey's power-play goal 9:05 into the first period was all they could muster against the Blue Jackets despite Henrik Sedin's return after missing the previous four with a shoulder injury.

"If we're going to get to the playoffs, we need more," coach Willie Desjardins said. "And it's from the whole team.

"For awhile we weren't creating chances, so we're moving in the right direction. At the same time, there has to be urgency around the net. We have to get the hard areas around the net a little bit more. I think we can do a better job."

The Flames are five points behind Vancouver and tied for the fewest in the West with Edmonton and Winnipeg. They've dropped four of their last five while scoring two goals or fewer in each defeat, including Friday's 2-1 loss to Columbus.

Jiri Hudler scored in the first period for Calgary, which outshot the Jackets 31-18 but allowed the winning goal 1:42 into the third period.

"Bottom line is one goal, you're not going to win many games in this league," defenseman Mark Giordano said. "We have to create more, we have to score more goals. Two goals against is pretty good on most nights."

Vancouver will try to shut down the Flames with help from Hamhuis, who is making his return after missing the last 21 games since being hit in the face with a puck against the New York Rangers on Dec. 9.

With Hamhuis returning, general manager Jim Benning confirmed fellow defenseman Yannick Weber has been placed on waivers.

"I've been working hard over the last month to get my fitness back," Hamhuis said. "I'm looking forward to getting back in the lineup with the guys."

Ryan Miller has lost his last four starts despite giving up three goals over his previous two combined, and he could be in net for this matchup. He beat the Flames 5-1 in the season opener Oct. 7 behind a goal and two assists from Daniel Sedin, then fell 3-2 on Oct. 10 on Johnny Gaudreau's overtime goal.

Karri Ramo made 16 saves Friday, leaving it unclear if he'll start for a second consecutive night. Jonas Hiller beat the Canucks with 28 saves in the last matchup and has a 2.17 goals-against average in his last five against them, including playoffs.

Gaudreau has two goals and five assists in his last three against Vancouver.

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