The Vancouver Canucks' 2-1 victory over Detroit Wednesday all but secured first place in the Western Conference, meaning the team is all but certain to face the eighth and final playoff qualifier out West.
And if they had their druthers, the Canucks would just as soon avoid the Anaheim Ducks.
Anaheim, which has won four straight, is sitting on eighth after a 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars Wednesday. The Ducks split four meetings with the Canucks this year (not many opponents can say that), and could have goaltender Jonas Hiller (vertigo) back by next week.
Anaheim's top-four forwards all have some impressive career numbers against Vancouver, and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry seem to forever get under the skin of Canucks players. But Hiller, who like most Swiss goalies is accustomed to playing the equalizer when his team can't match skating talent, could also be a big factor if he regains form in what remains of the regular season.
The Chicago Blackhawks may still be Vancouver's bogeyman, and the Nashville Predators have given the Canucks a tough time in 2010-11, but a first-round meeting against Anaheim (big, skilled forwards; Stanley Cup experience; potential difference-maker in goal) could be just as ominous.