The Canucks (39-15-9) host the Columbus Blue Jackets (31-24-6) in their third meeting of the season tonight at Rogers Arena. Vancouver has won their two previous meetings with Columbus, outscoring them 10-5.
Columbus is hot, having gone 11-3-3 in their past 17 games, a stretch that included a six game road winning streak that was snapped last Sunday in Nashville.
“They’re on a roll right now, they’re playing well. I think teams are so evenly matched now, when you get a team that’s playing so hot, you want to work that much harder and cool them off a bit,” said Ryan Kesler.
The Jackets sit 12th in the Western Conference, but are only one point out of a playoff spot
“Every game for them, like every team in our conference is a playoff mode, playoff battle,” said Coach Vigneault. “Their top players are playing real well right now; I thought that Vermette’s line with Nash has been really good these last couple games.”
“Our last couple of games have been hard fought against this team and its going to be the same tonight.”
In their past 10 games, the Canucks have alternated wins and losses, having not lost back to back games since late November. Coming off a loss to Boston on Saturday, the Canucks will put their remarkable streak to the test tonight.
Roberto Luongo gets the start in net tonight. After losing just once in regulation over a period of 26 games, Luongo has lost four of his last five. Luongo won is only start against the Blue Jackets this season, a 3-2 decision at home in mid December.
The Jackets will counter with Steve Mason in net. Mason is 13-5-1 in his last 19 games.
Two lineup changes for the Canucks tonight as newly acquired Maxim Lapierre will centre the fourth line alongside Jeff Tambellini and Tanner Glass. Former 4th liners Cody Hodgson and Victor Oreskovich were sent down to Manitoba yesterday.
Incumbent 4th liner Tanner Glass is getting used to playing with a rotating cast of new line mates, but credits the team's system with easing each transition.
“You just have to communicate; we have principles in place that the line has to abide by no matter who is on the line. As long as we’re communicating, we’ll be all right.”
Manny Malhotra is currently riding a two game goal scoring streak, the longest of any current Canuck and is one goal shy of 100 for his career.
The Canucks finish off their six game home stand Thursday night against the Nashville Predators before heading out on the road for 9 of their next 12.
LAPIERRE DEBUTS, HIGGINS ARRIVES TONIGHT
The Canucks new 4th line centre, Maxim Lapierre, is saying all the right things in the lead up to his first game, stressing the importance of fitting into the team’s disciplined framework.
“I’m going to play hard, finish my checks, try to play sound defensively and bring energy for this team,” said Lapierre.
“I was surprised I got traded again, but when they told me it was in Vancouver it was a great day for me. Our goal is the Stanley Cup and I am really happy that I can contribute.”
“What happened in the past is over for me now, its great news that I’m with this organization now, it’s a great hockey team and they’re on their way to the cup this year and I’m glad I could help.”
For Lapierre it’s a chance to get back to his playoff form from a year ago.
“I haven’t been playing my greatest hockey lately, but I know I can help this team and I can do it, and going into the playoffs, that’s my type of game.”
Coach Vigneault is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the gritty forward.
“I know Max, I’ve coached him before, and he’s a real good kid, a real intense young man that plays the game hard. I’ve had a talk with him this morning, and we’re going to get him to play whistle to whistle, to play hard.”
“I think there is a misperception about the discipline part, he’s not the type of player that takes a lot of penalties, he’s the type of player that tries to get under the other teams skin and gets them to take penalties.”
The Canucks other trade deadline acquisition, Chris Higgins, gets into town tonight. Due to a thumb injury sustained last week against the Phoenix Coyotes, its unknown when Higgins will make his Canucks debut.
“First of all, we have to find out the nature of this injury,” said Coach Vigneault. “We don’t think it’s serious.”
Ryan Kesler is familiar with Higgins, having represented the U.S. on the same World Junior squad with him as youngsters.
“He makes our potent offense that much more dangerous,” said Kesler. “I’ve played with Higgins before and he’s a really good player, very underrated and he’s a guy that can play on any line.”