The Canucks look for their third straight win against a struggling Coyotes team in Phoenix tonight. The Coyotes have lost their last four in a row at home, allowing over four goals a game in the process. They are 10-9-5 in Glendale this season and only the last-place Edmonton Oilers (7-13-4) have fewer home-ice wins in the West.
Roberto Luongo gets the start in net tonight for the Canucks. He had 25 saves in a 3-2 loss to Phoenix earlier this season, but is still 8-4-1 with a 1.95 GAA in 13 games against the Coyotes since being acquired by the Canucks prior to 2006-07.
Luongo will look to continue a hot streak that has seen him post a 12-0-5 record in his last 17 starts; his last regulation loss coming almost two months ago on December 5th against the St Louis Blues.
Aaron Volpatti will sit out after suffering an upper body injury during the first period of yesterday’s game against the Dallas Stars. Jeff Tambellini slides back in on the fourth line right wing, while Tanner Glass will move over to the left side. The defensive pairings will remain the same.
The Coyotes are the fifth highest scoring team in the Western Conference, but don’t have a player with more than 15 goals, or a forward with more than 40 points. They have 9 players between 10-15 goals, and are one of only two teams in the NHL with a defenseman (Keith Yandle 9-36-45) leading the team in scoring (Nashville’s Shea Weber being the other). Conversely, the Canucks have three forwards with more than 40 points (D Sedin, H Sedin, Kesler) and two with more than 25 goals (D. Sedin, Kesler).
“The Coyotes are a real strong team, one of the best teams in the conference, they play real hard in both ends and it’s going to be a good matchup,” said Coach Alain Vigneault.
Tonight’s Game features one of the league’s best power play units against one of its worst. The Canucks lead the NHL with 49 power play goals and are tops on the road at 28.6 percent, while the Coyotes rank a lowly 22nd on the penalty kill at 79.6 percent.
After the game the Canucks return home to prepare for a Friday night matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks.
2008 first round pick Cody Hodgson got his first NHL start last night, centering the Canucks fourth line between Aaron Volpatti and Tanner Glass.
He played 9:52 on 15 shifts with two shots, three hits, a blocked shot, and was 2-for-9 on face-offs in the win at Dallas.
"I'm feeling great, healthy and strong," said Hodgson. "It's a good feeling and it was a lot of fun out there, I really enjoyed my first game.”
Hodgson’s best chance to score came in the first period when he snuck in behind the Dallas defense during the dying seconds of a power play. Hodgson found himself all alone in front of Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen, but couldn’t bury the puck.
“I had lots of time,” said Hodgson. “I just had to get it up, which I've done probably a thousand times.”
Hodgson was one of five rookies in the Canucks lineup last night. The last time the Canucks started five rookies was also in Dallas, on Feb. 5, 2008, when Zack Fitzgerald, Luc Bourdon, Alex Edler, Jason Jaffray and Nathan McIver, suited up in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars
"It's a dream come true to play in the National Hockey League and to be able to get that opportunity, so I just took it all in, I enjoyed it and it was a good time."
With last night’s win against the Stars, the Canucks took over first place in the NHL, moving two points up on the Philadelphia Flyers, who were shutout last night in Tampa Bay. Vancouver now sits seven points clear of Detroit for top spot in the West, and 17 points ahead of Colorado in the Northwest Division.
Daniel Sedin’s two assists last night put him within two points of league leader Steven Stamkos, tying Sydney Crosby for second overall in the process. Sedin has 29 goals and 37 assists this season.
The Canucks are now 20-0-2 this season when scoring more than four goals in a game.