VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Don't look now, but Rickard Rakell is on a roll.
And, not coincidentally, the Anaheim Ducks are, too.
The often-unheralded Rakell takes a five-game scoring streak into Vancouver as the Ducks (18-14-8) seek their fifth win in six games against the improving, but still struggling Canucks (16-18-5) at Rogers Arena on Tuesday.
The challenge is usually for the Canucks to stop Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and ex-teammate Ryan Kesler, who recently returned from injury. That will still be the case. But they will also want to pay attention to Rakell, a 24-year-old Sundbyberg, Sweden, native, who has emerged as a dominant forward over the past year or so.
After producing a career-high 33 goals last season, he already has 14 in the current campaign. Playing alongside Getzlaf and Antoine Vermette, he has produced eight points during his five-game streak. He had never scored in five straight games previously.
"I'm just trying to find open ice," Rakell told reporters after the Ducks beat the Arizona Coyotes on New Year's Eve. "When we have control, Getzy's very good at creating time for myself to make a good play. Vermy is a good passer as well. ... Hopefully we can just keep going."
Thanks largely to Rakell, the Ducks are in good position to take advantage of a Canucks team that has a habit of trailing early on most nights. Anaheim has scored the first goal in each of the past five games.
"What we try to do is we try to make sure that we have a starting point," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told reporters. "You have no starting point if you have a poor first period. Then you're going to play catch-up. We don't want to play catch-up if we don't have to.
"We feel if we can get off the mark and get attacking, then we have a hockey club that can be dangerous."
Meanwhile, the Canucks are looking for their potential, highly visible in young talent like Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin, to become more dangerous now. Following a Dec. 30 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks have only two wins in their last 11 wins -- and all but one loss came in regulation time.
In addition to tending to trail early, the Canucks have squandered some leads lately -- a factor that does not sit well with veteran winger Daniel Sedin, especially after they led 3-2 against L.A.
"We have to be able to finish (the game) off," he said.
It does not help that the Canucks are getting inconsistent goaltending from Jacob Markstrom, the de facto starter, and Anders Nilsson, who had two shutouts early in the season, but has struggled lately.
Second-year defenseman Troy Stecher also wants the blue-line corps to play better after the Canucks earned only four wins in December.
"It's something we have to clean up," he said of the team's defensive play. "We've talked about team defense. We regroup, come back to the rink, be ready to work and get prepared for the next game."
The return of Kesler, who has played only two games after hip surgery had sidelined him since the start of the season, will add some emotion to the game. A former fan favorite, he now gets jeered on a regular basis after seeking to leave the Canucks in a trade to the Ducks following the 2014-15 season.
He will add some incentive to the Canucks to change their losing ways -- although they should not need much after winning only four of 13 games in December.
"We were going through a little stretch here before Christmas break, where we weren't getting any victories," said Stecher. "We have to find ways to win games."