The Canucks (34-10-9, 77 points) place their league leading home record up against the NHL’s third worst road record tonight as the Ottawa Senators (17-28-8, 42 points) come to town. Having lost 15 of their last 16 games, the Senators now hold the third worst record in the NHL, above only the New York Islanders (41 points) and Edmonton Oilers (38 points).
The Canucks currently lead the NHL's overall standings and rank first in faceoffs, second on the power play and third in offense, defense and the penalty kill. The Canucks boast the NHL’s best goal differential (+54), the Senator’s, the league’s worst (-57).
On paper, it’s a matchup between two teams that couldn’t have less in common.
Trap game: when a great team looks beyond a lesser opponent, assuming they can coast to victory without bringing their A-game. It’s a pitfall this year’s Vancouver Canucks pride themselves on never falling victim to and, to a man, every Canuck player and coach alike vows not to take the Ottawa Senators lightly.
“Every game is the same for us, it doesn’t matter what the situation is, who we are playing, what the standings are we want to have the same approach and mentality coming in here, work hard and play our game,” said Coach Alain Vigneault. “There are no given points in this league, anybody team can beat anybody anytime, so we have to be ready to play”.
Roberto Luongo gets the start in net tonight. The NHL’s hottest goalie over the past two months has a career 7-11-1 mark against the Ottawa Senators, most of the losses coming when he was with Florida Panthers against some very good early 2000’s Senators teams.
“We’re getting ready for a real good opponent tonight, we know they are going to play real hard and we’re gonna do the same thing,” said Luongo.
One lineup change tonight as Andrew Alberts slots in after missing eight games with a shoulder injury. He takes Chris Tanev’s spot on the third defense pairing, playing alongside Keith Ballard.
TWIN POWERS ACTIVATE
Fresh off a one goal, three assist performance by Steven Stamkos last night, Daniel Sedin has temporarily relinquished his place atop the NHL’s scoring lead. Sedin now sits three points back of Stamkos on the leaderboard, but, with the recent news that Sidney Crosby will be out for another month with concussion issues, the Art Ross trophy race is more wide open than ever.
“You saw how Hank handled it last year and it’s not a big deal for us,” said Daniel. It’s all about how we go into a game and how we’re prepared to play and if that means me scoring a few points or not, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a long way to go and you can’t get caught up in those kinds of things.”
Daniel has assists in eight straight games (1-11-12), the longest active streak in the NHL.
During last Friday’s game against the Blackhawks Daniel set a new franchise record with his 50th GWG goal, surpassing Markus Naslund’s record of 49. Not to be outdone, brother Henrik notched the 150th goal of his career the same night.
When Henrik Sedin sets foot on the ice tonight he will move into sole position of fourth place on the Canucks all time games played list with 781. Only Trevor Linden (1140) Stan Smyl (896), and Markus Naslund (884), have played more games for the Canucks.
MIKAEL SAMUELSSON A STAR
Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson was named the NHL’s second star last week, leading the NHL in scoring with six points (two goals, four assists) in three games.
Samuelsson recorded multiple points in each game, starting with one goal and one assist in a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Feb. 1. He recorded two assists in a 6-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes Feb. 2 and finished the week by notching one goal and one assist in a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Feb. 4. Skating in his second season with the Canucks, Samuelsson ranks fourth on the club in scoring with 33 points (11 goals, 22assists) in 52 games.
“Since we put him back with Ryan and Mason he’s been playing better, playing to his strengths and we need him to contribute, obviously he is a big part of our team and he knows that and it’s good to see that he is finding his stride right now,” said Coach Alain Vigneault.
Samuelsson too, was quick to credit his new line mates.
“Absolutely, we played a lot last year, so we have found some chemistry right away. I feel good about it”.
Samuelsson’s hot streak comes on the heels of a 14 game goalless stretch, but his teammates never worried about the much publicized mid-season slump.
“This is the time of year that he steps up, he did it last year too, he was unbelievable in the playoffs last year too, this is what we need from him,” said Captain Henrik Sedin.
Defensemen Lee Sweatt was assigned to the Manitoba Moose on Saturday; only to have the Canucks void the assignment after the team realized that he suffered a foot fracture while blocking a shot during practice.
The rookie defenseman left Rogers Arena Sunday with his foot in a walking boot. The extent of the damage is unknown at this point, so, for the time being, Sweatt will stay up with the big club.
“He’s going to be re-evaluated by our doctors here today,” said Coach Alain Vigneault. “He took a shot off the foot and is out indefinitely,”
Sweatt has registered one goal and one assist in three games played with the Canucks this season.