Sharks host Canucks in battle of first-place teams

A victory for the Vancouver Canucks following the Christmas break finally put them atop the Northwest Division, while a loss by the San Jose Sharks kept things tight in the Pacific.

Both clubs will look to create some breathing room atop their respective standings this evening at HP Pavilion.

The Canucks have picked up a win in four of five, with Monday's 5-3 triumph over the Oilers giving them a one-point lead over the Wild for first place in the Northwest standings. Andrew Ebbett scored twice during a three-goal first period that also featured a goal from Daniel Sedin.

Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler had a goal and an assist for the Canucks and Roberto Luongo made 18 saves.

"It was a tough game out there against a tough opponent," said Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault. "Every night is a challenge out there and you're not going to get many easy wins."

Vancouver will play three straight and seven of its next nine on the road, while San Jose wraps a six-game homestand this evening before playing six of its next eight on the road. That span doesn't begin until a game in Vancouver on Jan. 2.

The Sharks dropped a 3-2 decision to the Ducks on Monday despite goals from Joe Pavelski and Jamie McGinn. Antti Niemi made 20 saves as San Jose saw its four-game win streak come to an end.

With the loss, the Sharks are tied for first in the Pacific Division with the Stars. Both clubs have 41 points, two more than the Coyotes and Kings.

The Canucks have gone 4-0-1 in their last five versus the Sharks, including a 3-2 win at San Jose on Nov. 26 in the first of four meetings between the Western Conference clubs this year. Luongo keyed the victory with 43 saves.

Vancouver has won three in a row at HP Pavilion since a six-game series road losing streak.