Canucks battle the Habs

BOB MACKIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The Canucks played spoiler when the Montreal Canadiens came through Vancouver on their centennial tour on Feb. 15 and will try to repeat the feat at the Bell Centre today at 4:30 p.m. (Team 1040/Sportsnet /RDS HD).

The Canucks have won eight of nine February games, including two in shootouts. They beat the Canadiens 4-2 at GM Place without taking a penalty. The Habs are the only team the Canucks meet more than once in February and the game follows Saturday night's emotional return to Toronto for Mats Sundin, who was coveted by Montreal before and after the trade deadline last year.

As hot as the Canucks have been this month, the Canadiens have been cold. Montreal has not registered back-to-back games in more than a month. The Habs are 3-8 in February and 4-12 in their last 16.

Habs fans have been distracted from the slump by Russian intrigue. First Alexei Kovalev was benched. Then La Presse newspaper reported brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn (along with Czech Roman Hamrlik) were buddies with Pasquale Mangiola, an alleged mobster arrested Feb. 12 on drug trafficking charges.

Meanwhile, general manager Bob Gainey acquired defenceman Mathieu Schneider from the Atlanta Thrashers. The 39-year-old blueliner was a Hab in 1993 when the club won its 24th Stanley Cup. A turnaround is needed immediately if the bleu, blanc et rouge has any desire to make the most of its centennial.

The Canucks will be motivated to keep their streak going. Former Habs' head coach Alain Vigneault is behind Vancouver's bench. Assistant Ryan Walter is a former Canadien. Montrealers Alexandre Burrows and Roberto Luongo will have plenty of friends and family watching.

It will be the teams' 111th meeting. The Habs doubled the Canucks 6-3 on Oct. 31, 1970 at the Forum in Montreal and have beaten Vancouver 71 times. One of the Canucks' only highlights of their first decade was stealing a win over Montreal at the Forum during the 1975 quarterfinal series.


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