The Vancouver Canucks (35-33-11) take to the ice for the first time with new President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden at the helm.
They host the Colorado Avalanche (51-21-7) tonight at Rogers Arena. The teams have split their two meetings so far this season – each winning on home ice.
The Canucks have not played since a 3-0 loss to Anaheim on home ice on Monday night. Starting with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Avs on March 27th, the Canucks have scored just six goals in their past five games. Former Av Brad Richardson has two of those six.
The Canucks are 8-9-2 in their 19 games since the Olympic break. Zack Kassian leads the hockey club in scoring in that span with 3+7=10 followed closely by Alex Burrows 5+4=9 and Henrik Sedin 1+6=7. Chris Higgins who has one goal since the Olympic break and Ryan Kesler who does not have an assist since January 31st will be split up tonight.
After making 19 straight starts since the Olympics, Eddie Lack will watch Jacob Markstrom make his first start as a Canuck tonight. Markstrom played the final 20 minutes of mop-up duty in a 6-1 loss in Dallas on March 8th in his only appearance since being acquired from Florida. He has not started an NHL game since December 20th at Winnipeg. He has not posted an NHL victory since October 11th versus Pittsburgh.
Frank Corrado will take Jason Garrison’s spot on the blueline tonight meaning no Canuck player will dress for all 82 games this season.
The Avs are here on a roll having going 7-0-1 in their past eight games. They have an outside shot at the President’s Trophy and still a chance of finishing first in the Western Conference. They can clinch home ice in the opening round with a win tonight.
They can also match the franchise record for wins in a season (52) with a victory tonight. The team has already set a record for most road wins in a season (25). The Avs have the best road winning percentage in the NHL (.697) and are 14-4-1 in their last 19 away from the Pepsi Center. Patrick Roy has become just the fifth head coach in NHL history to guide his team to 50 wins in his first year in the league.
Colorado is the only team to beat all 29 other teams in the league this season. Along with St. Louis, the Avs are one of two teams in the league with five 20-goal scorers and five 50-point scorers this season.
Semyon Varlamov leads the NHL with 40 wins. He will start tonight and with a victory this evening will break Patrick Roy’s mark for the franchise single-season wins record.
Colorado has four regulars on defense (Holden, Barrie, Guenin and Benoit) who each had fewer than 50 games of NHL experience to start this season. Those four have combined for 30 goals and 98 points this year alone.