Canucks eye first place in clash with Flames

The Vancouver Canucks will try to head into the Christmas break with sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division, as they welcome the rival Calgary Flames for tonight's battle at Rogers Arena.

The Canucks, who have won three straight, enter tonight trailing idle Minnesota by just one point for the division lead. Vancouver has put pressure on the Wild over the past month, compiling a 12-2-1 record over its last 15 games.

Vancouver's two most recent wins have come at the start of a four-game homestand and those victories have improved the Canucks' record as the host to 10-4-1 this season.

The Canucks last played on Wednesday, when they recorded a 4-2 decision over the Detroit Red Wings. Roberto Luongo made 38 saves to secure the win and improved his record to 7-0-1 over his last eight starts in net.

"[The Red Wings] always make for some exciting games," said Luongo. "They are fun to play in. They shoot a lot. That's the way I like it."

Chris Higgins, Cody Hodgson, Alexandre Burrows and Alexander Edler lit the lamp, while Jannik Hansen added a pair of assists for the Canucks, who have won six of their last seven games at home.

Vancouver has played the last two games without defenseman Keith Ballard and he is questionable for tonight with back spasms.

The Canucks have dominated the recent series with the Flames, winning five straight and posting a 10-0-2 mark in the last 12 encounters. Vancouver has beaten Calgary twice this season, winning both tilts by identical 5-1 scores.

The Flames have lost two straight and five of their last six games in British Columbia.

Calgary has won its last two games after a four-game losing streak. The Flames beat visiting Minnesota on Tuesday by a 2-1 score and then notched another home win last night in a 3-2 decision against Detroit.

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 29 shots on Thursday to help Calgary hold off the Red Wings at the Saddledome. Curtis Glencross had two goals while Blake Comeau scored the other for the Flames.

"The last couple of minutes was kind of hectic, but we'll take the result," said Comeau. "That's a great team over there and you can't make any mistakes against them. This is a big win for us."

Tonight marks the start of a season-long seven-game road trip for the Flames, who have lost five straight as the guest and are 6-10-2 away from Calgary this season.

Flames forward Rene Bourque will be eligible to return tonight after sitting out the last two games with a suspension. Bourque, who has 11 goals this season, was given the ban for an illegal hit on Chicago's Brent Seabrook.