The Canucks (40-15-9) finish off their season long six game home-stand tonight when they host the Nashville Predators (32-23-9) at Rogers Arena.
It’s the 3rd meeting between the two clubs this season, with the season series tied one apiece. In their last meeting the Canucks won on the strength of a late third period goal by Lee Sweatt, his first NHL tally.
Nashville went 5-6-1 in February, after a torrid December and January that saw them post a 17-9-1 record.
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne didn’t cool off though, he still sits 2nd in the NHL in both Goals Against Average (2.13) and Save Percentage (.928).
The Canucks are getting ready for playoff style hockey over the coming weeks, preparing to play a stretch of games against teams fighting for their playoff lives.
“This time of year there aren’t a lot of 5-1, 6-1 games, a lot of the games are one goal games, decided in the last few minutes,” said Roberto Luongo.
Of the Canucks next 13 games, only one comes against a team currently out of playoff contention.
“It’s playoff mode, were all playing playoff hockey, there are 20 or less games left, so much of it comes from us, teams are rising up to play us because we’re up at the top and we want to stay up at the top,” said Alexandre Burrows.
Sitting 16 points up on the final playoff spot and 14 up on their nearest division rival, the Canucks have set their sights on a higher goal: the Presidents' Trophy.
“I’m excited, it’s the first time in my career I’ve been in this situation, it’s fun to come to the rink to play for first spot in the whole league, it’s not tough to find motivation,” said Luongo.
“We’ve got a great chance to finish first in the league and that would be a great honour,” said Burrows.
After a stretch that’s seen the Canucks go 0-7 on the power play in their last three games, they no longer have the number one ranked unit in the NHL. At 24.5 percent, they now sit .2 percent behind the Chicago Blackhawks.
“We had a chance to win against Boston on the power play, we had a chance to win last game on the power play and that’s when you need your special teams to step up, and it’s been disappointing to not win those games,” said Henrik Sedin
“At the same time, we’ve been good all year, we know what to do, we’ve look at videos and I’m sure it’s going to be better tonight.”
It’s only the second time this season the Canucks power play has gone multiple games in a row without scoring.
No lineup changes for the Canucks tonight.
After the game the Canucks head out on the road for a six game, West Coast swing that begins Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles at 1:00 PST.
Roberto Luongo is one win shy of becoming the 25th goalie in NHL history to record 300 wins. Should he earn a victory tonight, he’ll become the sixth youngest goalie to achieve the milestone.
Luongo, however, remains more focused on team goals.
“Well you don’t get any trophies for that, I just want to win games, it doesn’t matter if its 300 or 301 or whatever, at the end of the day, we’re all playing for the same thing at the end of the season and that’s more important,” said Luongo.
Luongo is also one win shy of 30 on the season. He's tallied at least 30 wins in all five seasons with the Canucks. His 29 wins currently ranks him 2nd in the NHL in wins this season, tied with three others.
40 WIN CLUB
The Canucks recorded their 40th win of the season last Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
At the 64 game mark, it’s the fastest the team has ever reached 40 wins. Last year’s Canucks squad held the previous record with 40 wins in 65 games.
It’s the 11th time in franchise history the Canucks have reached the milestone, and 4th time in five seasons under Coach Alain Vigneault.
BIEKSA AND HIGGINS GETTING HEALTHY
Kevin Bieksa took to the ice this morning on his own, for the second day in a row, and hopes to return shortly from a foot fracture that’s kept him out of the lineup since February 17th.
New Canuck Chris Higgins, nursing a broken thumb suffered blocking a shot last week, is also skating, and shouldn’t be too far behind.
“Were hoping that him (Bieksa) and Chris will be able to join the team somewhere down on the road trip, on the latter part of the road trip, were not exactly sure when, but we’ll see how Bieksa reacts tomorrow and we’ll see how Chris reacts over the next couple days,” said Coach Vigneault.