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A stretch of solid play has created some separation between the Vancouver Canucks and a cluster of teams fighting for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.
If the Anaheim Ducks don't end their losing streak soon, they won't be a part of that pack much longer.
The Ducks will try to avoid a fifth straight home loss Wednesday night against the Canucks, who'll try to salvage the finale of their two-game Southern California swing.
Even after losing 3-2 at Los Angeles on Monday night, the Canucks (34-23-8) are still 12-3-0 since the beginning of February, allowing an average of 2.3 goals in those games and surging into fifth place in the West.
The next eight teams in the standings are all in contention for the final few playoff spots, but the Ducks (31-30-6) are on the brink of fading from that group after losing their last three - all by 3-2 scores.
Their last two defeats have come in regulation at Honda Center, where they had the NHL's second-best home record over the previous two seasons (54-15-13).
In 2008-09, they're 15-15-3 at home, which right wing Teemu Selanne called the "big reason" for the team's disappointing season. Anaheim is 0-4-0 at home since a 3-2 win over Calgary on Feb. 11, its longest such skid since November 2005.
It will have to contend with a Canucks team that has gone 7-3-2 on the road since the start of 2009.
"We have been dominating teams the last 10 years in this building," Selanne said, "and all of a sudden, we can't win now. So that's a little weird. But that's one thing that has to change. We want to be homers."
The Ducks have outshot their last two opponents 76-41, but they still lost to Dallas and Minnesota - both also among the final West contenders. A quiet stretch from Ryan Getzlaf hasn't helped, as the team's leading scorer has no goals and two assists in his last six games.
They've also had unexpected problems with goaltending, with Jean-Sebastien Giguere sporting a 3.12 goals-against average. He's 3-4-1 with a 3.80 GAA in his last eight starts and has been losing time to backup Jonas Hiller, who dropped his third straight start Sunday against the Wild.
Vancouver's franchise goalie has had no such problems, with Roberto Luongo winning 12 of his last 14 starts. Monday night's loss ended his seven-game streak of allowing two or fewer goals.
"I think we're playing a solid game right now, we have to keep playing good defensively and with the lineup we have right now we'll keep getting chances," leading scorer Daniel Sedin told the Canucks' official Web site. "It's a good feeling right now, although we lost, but I think we just have to keep playing the same way."
The team has also liked its recent results against the Ducks, winning five of six in the series, including 7-6 in a shootout in the Canucks' last visit to Orange County on Oct. 31.
The longest shootout in the NHL this season went to the 13th round before Mattias Ohlund finally sealed it, with Luongo winning despite giving up at least four goals for his third straight visit to Honda Center.
Behind two goals from Sedin, the Canucks beat Anaheim 4-3 at home Dec. 22.
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