Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch are in second place in pairs after skating the short program Saturday at the NHK Trophy in Sendai, Japan.
Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov of Russia hold a slim lead with 65.61 followed by Moore-Towers and Toronto's Moscovitch close behind at 65.14.
"We had a couple of little mistakes but got all our levels that we didn't get a couple of weeks ago in China [a fourth place finish] so everything was pretty much improved," said Moore-Towers, who hails from St. Catharines, Ont.
"The jumps, the throws, and the twists were just as good as before but the overall performance was much better today."
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (61.85) of the U.S. are third. The free skate in pairs is set for Sunday.
Japanese teenager Yuzuru Hanyu, who broke his own world record with a mark of 95.32 in Friday's short program, won the free skate to secure a place in next month's Grand Prix final.
The 17-year-old Hanyu opened his free skate with a quadruple toe loop and hit six triple jumps on the way to victory with a score of 261.03 points. He was unable to land the second quad — a salchow — and fell on his final jump, a triple lutz, but did enough to beat second-place finisher and compatriot Daisuke Takahashi by nearly 10 points. Ross Miner of the United States finished third with 235.37 points.
"I'm very happy to make the Grand Prix final," Hanyu said. "Despite my mistakes in the free skate, I was able to score more than 160 points, so my training has paid off."
Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., was sixth and Andrei Rogozine of Richmond Hill, Ont., was ninth.
Mao Asada of Japan narrowly edged out compatriot Akiko Suzuki for the women's title. Asada tallied 185.27 points to Suzuki's 185.22. Mirai Nagasu of the United States finished third with 176.68 points.
Takahashi put on a lively performance to "I Pagliacci" and totalled 251.51. The result qualified Takahashi for his seventh GP final. Only Russia's Evgeni Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic gold medallist , has made more GP finals with eight.
7th heaven for Takahashi
Takahashi, the 2010 world champion, began with a quad toe loop, but under-rotated when he performed one for the second time. The mistake took nothing away from the sublime show he put on, however, as he landed seven triple jumps and had the audience completely enthralled with his superior presentation skills.
"I feel good about making the final for a seventh time," Takahash saidi. "I will give everything I have and go all out there."
Hanyu and Takahashi will be joined by compatriots Takahiko Kozuka and Tatsuki Machida at the GP Final in Sochi, Russia, giving Japan four of the six competitors in the men's event.
Skating to "Swan Lake," Asada doubled her opening triple loop, then later doubled a triple lutz and compounded her problems by singling a triple salchow, but her big lead over Suzuki from the short program was enough put her atop the podium.
"I feel a lot of disappointment," Asada said. "I couldn't execute any of my jumps. I can't be satisfied with the way I performed."
Suzuki assured herself a spot in the GP final with a tremendous performance to "O" from Cirque du Soleil. The world bronze medallist landed six triple jumps and moved the audience with her program.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States retained their lead from the short dance to capture the title in ice dance with 178.48.
White and Davis, the 2011 world champions, beat Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (156.62) by nearly 18 points in notching the victory. Maia and Alex Shibutani, also of the United States, took third place with a total of 154.56.
Nicole Orford of Burnaby, B.C., and Thomas Williams of Vancouver remained in fourth spot scoring 130.10.
"It was really good, we were very happy with how we skated," said Orford. "It was an improvement on our last competition. Our technical score and program component score both went up."
Davis and White, the 2010 Olympic silver medallists , locked up a spot in the GP final, which they have won the past three years.
The win marked the third time that Davis and White have captured the NHK Trophy and the eighth straight Grand Prix victory for the duo. The last regular GP event they entered and did not win was the Cup of Russia in 2008.