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Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller watches the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk scores a goal with Nazem kadri in front of the net.Tom Szczerbowski

Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin isn't worried about the physical toll of the team's road trip because flights in the Eastern Conference are short.

Mentally, well, that's another story.

The Canucks are 1-3-1 on their trip, with the only victory coming against the NHL-cellar-dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets. Three of the four losses are by a goal, and it would've been a clean sweep had Radim Vrbata's last-minute goal Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs not been disallowed because the play was offside.

"We know we need to win games, and every game is a close game," Sedin said. "It shows you that it's a fine line between winning and losing, and a lot of times that is special teams or that extra mistake that's going to cost you."

These are trying times for the Canucks, who visit the Montreal Canadiens on Monday and the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday before they can finally go home. But even in a weak Pacific Division, they can't afford to wait to pick up points when they return to Vancouver.

Identifying the problems seems to be an easy process. Special teams is at the core, as the Canucks are 2 for 17 on the power play and 11 for 18 on the penalty kill during this road swing.

Those woes have contributed to 10 one-goal losses this season. And even though many have been in overtime, it's hard to swallow.

"If our special teams were better, we probably wouldn't be in this situation of overtime," coach Willie Desjardins said. "This trip, especially, we've hurt ourselves with our specialty-teams play, and usually that's one of our strengths. We have to get back on it. Both groups have to get back in a groove."

The Canucks have a power-play goal in each of their past two games, so there's progress. Sedin is confident with Vancouver's personnel that the power play can get going, and defenceman Dan Hamhuis believes the same about the penalty kill.

"I think we do a lot of the right things," Hamhuis said. "The penalty-kill guys are all committed to getting the job done. It's just sometimes that puck finds a way into the net."

Goaltender Ryan Miller's struggles haven't helped. In his four starts on the road trip, Miller has allowed 14 goals on 115 shots, a save percentage of .878.

"I'm having a tough week," Miller said after allowing four goals in a 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs. "Just not getting on the right side of things. Frustrating."

That goes at large for the Canucks, who could be without centre Brandon Sutter for a third consecutive game because of an undisclosed injury. Hunter Shinkaruk could make his NHL debut Monday in Montreal, with Jacob Markstrom starting in goal.

Desjardins told reporters at the team's practice Sunday that Alexandre Burrows returned to Vancouver for personal reasons, adding that "it's a good thing."

It would be good for the Canucks if they could get Vrbata going. His last goal was Oct. 29, so Desjardins has moved the veteran winger down the lineup but still hopes for some production.

"Vrbata, he's a pro," Desjardins said Saturday afternoon before Vrbata's disallowed goal against the Leafs. "He knows his game, he knows that he has to bury a couple of those and he wants to.

"It's not like he's not playing hard; it's not like he doesn't care. But he's been a good team guy. He's accepted things, and he's playing for the team, which is good to see."

A goal or two from Vrbata could go a long way to helping the Canucks cure what ails them in one-goal games. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, skating with Jannik Hansen, continue to play well, so teammates hope it's a matter of time before success follows.

"We're in every game; we're giving ourselves a chance to win," Hamhuis said. "We'd have a lot different record if we were on the other side of those. Certainly, you don't want to get too negative because you can take a negative outlook on that and that drains on a team. I think there's a lot of positives in our game, but at the same time it reminds us to get better."

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