|Just five months ago, the Vancouver Canucks were in a position that everyone in professional sports dreams of: the deciding game of a championship series on your home turf. They had taken a 2-0 lead over the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, but were unable to finish the job as the Bruins won Game 7 by a final of 4-0. Many around the NHL thought the Canucks were the team to beat with their unparalleled depth at forward and on defense, but they ended up one win short. |
The offseason did not bring much change to the Vancouver organization, as GM Mike Gillis recognized he had a pretty solid group of players to work with and as the old adage goes: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Gillis did add to his mix early on by making a trade with the Florida Panthers on Oct. 22, acquiring forward David Booth in a multi-player deal that sent Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm to Sunrise.
At the quarter mark of this season, most of the changes have developed internally. Goaltender Roberto Luongo – normally the No. 1 man in net - has struggled with both injury and his on-ice play to this point, and Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has shown no hesitation in giving more starts to Cory Schneider. The 25-year-old netminder out of Boston College owns a 6-4-0 record this season, and is 3-1-0 with a 2.47 goals-against average in his career against the Blue Jackets.
The Canucks are predictably getting the bulk of their offense from Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who put up points regardless of who plays the other wing on their line. They have 49 points between them (Daniel 25, Henrik 24) and lately it has been two-way forward Jannik Hansen joining them on the No. 1 line. Gillis envisioned an “All-American” second line, slotting Booth with Selke candidate Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins, but Booth’s game has yet to translate well in Vancouver and Vigneault is bouncing him around the lineup. After the top six, the Canucks have more options with Alexandre Burrows, Maxim Lapierre, Cody Hodgson and Manny Malhotra who can play multiple forward positions and produce offensively.
During their playoff run a year ago, the Canucks’ strength was their defense. Vancouver has several players who can log big minutes and effectively join the attack. Sami Salo can still fire the puck, Dan Hamhuis draws shutdown matchups and Kevin Bieksa has a mean streak to go with his skill. Young Swede defender Alex Edler is the Canucks’ third-leading scorer with three goals and 13 assists.
| || || |
|Nash (7) ||H. Sedin (8) |
|Prospal (13) ||D. Sedin (19) |
|Prospal (19) ||D. Sedin (25) |
|Dorsett (64) ||Volpatti (37) |
|Johansen (+4) ||H. Sedin (+8) |
|Sanford (3-1-2) |
|Luongo (7-5-1) |
|Sanford (1.39) ||Schneider (2.01) |
|Sanford (.947) ||Schneider (.931) || |
|• Tonight marks the first of four meetings overall and first of two meetings at Rogers Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Canucks. Columbus is 13-20-7 all-time against Vancouver, including a 6-11-3 mark at Rogers Arena. The Canucks have won seven straight against the Jackets overall, although the last two meetings in Vancouver have been decided in overtime or a shootout. |
• James Wisniewski has points in seven of his last 14 games, including two assists Nov. 25 vs. Buffalo. He has played 25-plus minutes in all but two games this season and ranks second (tied) in the NHL in time on ice average (26:53).
• After starting the season 0-7-0 on the road, the Blue Jackets have earned points in their last three road games with a 1-0-2 mark. Columbus wrapped a pair of 2-1 shootout losses –at Boston on Nov. 17 and at New Jersey on Nov. 23 – around a 4-3 overtime win at Nashville on Nov. 19. In those three games, the club has allowed just five goals in regulation and overtime, converted 3-of-14 power play chances (21.4 pct.).
• Dating back to the start of the 2010.11 regular season, Daniel and Henrik Sedin have been among the League's top scorers per game. Only Sidney Crosby's 1.66 points per game (73 points in 44 games played) leads Daniel Sedin in that span.
• Vancouver is third in the NHL in faceoff percentage, winning 52.5% of draws the team has taken. Malhotra is currently third in the NHL in faceoff percentage, winning 58.6% of draws taken.
LW - #7
• The Michigan State product was brought into Vancouver to help provide secondary scoring behind the Sedins, but it hasn’t happened as quickly as some hoped. Booth has played on the second, third and fourth lines early in his Canucks career, but did score a goal in his most recent game (Nov. 25 at Phoenix).
• Booth has three 20-goal seasons to his credit in the first six seasons of his career, and has shown he can put the puck in the net with regularity. He’s known for scoring tough goals in high-traffic areas and being strong in pursuit of the puck.
LW Kristian Huselius (upper body); indefinitely
D Radek Martinek (concussion); indefinitely