|One of the more prominent storylines in the NHL of late has been the developing goaltending controversy in Vancouver. |
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is under the microscope more than ever as the defending Western Conference champions have a good problem on their hands: an incumbent goaltender (Roberto Luongo) who is accomplished and established, yet going through an inconsistent stretch of hockey. The young, up-and-comer is 25-year-old Cory Schneider – a former standout at Boston College who, after several dominant campaigns with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, has cemented his place as a full-time NHL netminder this season.
Luongo is now back to full health and Vigneault has tried to find games for both players, and it appears the former will get the start in goal for the Canucks tonight at Nationwide Arena. It will mark the second consecutive start for Luongo, who picked up his 11th win of the season in Vancouver’s last contest – a 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators. The Canucks’ play has picked up in the last 15 games, and coming into the game tonight, they have won four straight games and own sixth place in the conference, six points behind division-leading (and league-best) Minnesota.
These two teams last met at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 10 in the Blue Jackets’ third game of the season. Schneider made his first of two starts against Columbus in that game, making 23 saves as the Canucks hung on for a 3-2 victory.
Winners of five straight on the road, the Canucks are getting the job done thanks to one of the most balanced scoring attacks in the NHL. Daniel and Henrik Sedin rank third and fourth overall in league scoring, respectively, and twelve different Vancouver players have double-digit point totals so far this season. At 3.31 goals per game on average, the Canucks are the second highest scoring team in the league behind the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Blue Jackets have played better hockey in the last month, but will have their hands full with a Canucks club firing on all cylinders right now. Vancouver has won nine of the last 10 meetings against Columbus.
| || || |
|Nash (9) ||D. Sedin (12) |
|Prospal (16) ||D. Sedin (25) |
|Prospal (23) ||D. Sedin (34) |
|Dorsett (73) ||Lapierre (65) |
|MacKenzie (+7) ||Burrows (+11) |
|Sanford (5-4-3) |
|Luongo (11-6-1) |
|Sanford (2.45) ||Schneider (2.02) |
|Sanford (.909) ||Schneider (.934) || |
|• In the midst of a five-game homestand, the Blue Jackets will look to return to the win column tonight against Vancouver. After going 3-1-0 at home Nov. 12-25, the club has posted a 0-2-1 mark the last three games at Nationwide Arena. |
• Goal scoring has improved as of late, with the Jackets scoring three or more goals in five-straight games. Columbus has scored 32 goals its last 11 games (2.91 per game) compared to 18 goals the previous nine games (2.00 per game).
• Tonight marks the third of four meetings overall and second of two meetings at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Canucks. Columbus is 13-22-7 all-time against Vancouver, including a 7-10-4 mark at Nationwide Arena.
• LW Rick Nash scored his first goal in three games with his team-leading ninth of the season this past Saturday against Boston. He has points in four of the last five games, with 2-2-4 during that stretch. He has collected 5-4-9 the last 11 games after being held to 1-3-4 the previous 10 games. He has historically played well against the Canucks with 14-14-28 in 33 career games against the club.
• James Wisniewski has points in four of the last five games after notching a pair of assists Dec. 10 vs. Boston, his fourth multi-point outing of the season. He has 0-5-5 in those games to go along with points in 11 of the last 20 games (1-14-15).
C - #36
• Hansen is one of the Canucks’ hottest scorers right now, riding a five-game points streak (4-2-6) into tonight’s game vs. the Blue Jackets. The 25-year-old Danish forward has seen most of his minutes on the Sedin line this season.
D Radek Martinek (upper body); indefinitely
LW Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely
RW Derek Dorsett (lower body); day-to-day