Ryan Kesler is having a career season, leading the Vancouver Canucks' surge on offense this month. He may finally be set to end his drought against the Ottawa Senators.
After getting another big game from Kesler, the Canucks look to sweep their season series with the resurgent Senators on Thursday night.
Vancouver, 28-21-8, was in the bottom half of the NHL in scoring each of the past two seasons, but is now ranked ninth with 3.00 goals per game. The Canucks have been particularly impressive in February, averaging 4.14 goals en route to going 6-1-0.
Vancouver had lost eight straight (0-5-3) prior to this month, but it has moved into fifth place in the Western Conference and is within eight points of first-place Calgary in the Northwest Division after beating the Flames 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday night.
"We want to get our division title," Kesler told the team's official Web site.
Kesler scored twice and has nine goals and four assists in eight games since being moved from center to right wing.
Kesler, a first-round pick in 2003, is second on the team with 18 goals, three shy of the career high he set last season. Kesler, though, has been held off the scoresheet in all five games he has played against Ottawa (22-25-9), including a 3-0 Vancouver win Dec. 28 in the teams' first meeting this season.
The Canucks held the Senators to 18 shots on goal in that game, winning their third straight in the series. Ottawa hasn't beaten Vancouver since a 2-1 road win March 13, 2004.
The Senators have been playing well since coach Cory Clouston replaced Craig Hartsburg on Feb. 2, going 5-1-2. Ottawa had a five-game winning streak end with a 3-2 overtime loss to Colorado on Tuesday night.
It was the finale of a 4-0-1 road trip for the Senators. Ottawa's playoff hopes, however, remain dim in the closely contested East.
The Senators' chances would be especially bleak if they lost captain Daniel Alfredsson for an extended period. He took a puck to the jaw versus the Avalanche but is hopeful he'll be able to play in this game.
"The teeth are OK, it's more of the jaw," said Alfredsson, who has 17 goals and 35 assists. "It will be sore."
Alfredsson, one point shy of 900 for his career, has been held off the scoresheet in two straight games.
Senators winger Ryan Shannon scored twice against Colorado. Shannon had no goals and one assist in seven games since being called up from AHL Binghamton to try and spark a then-struggling Ottawa club.
"I was pressing a little bit, trying to force shots, trying to shoot too hard," he said. "It's settling."
Ottawa could use some more goals from Shannon at home, where it has been held to two or fewer in 12 of 26 games.
The Senators are 12-9-5 at Scotiabank Place and won the last contest there 3-2 in a shootout with Buffalo on Feb. 7. They haven't won consecutive games at home since a four-game run from Nov. 22-Dec. 6.