GAME DAY NOTES
Vancouver’s last road game of the season plays out tonight against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion, a building they haven’t won in since 2006-2007. Though the Canucks (48-27-5) have third place in the Western Conference and a Northwest Division title locked up, they want to finish the season on a good note against a potential playoff opponent.
The Canucks, have endured road struggles this season with a 19-19-2 record, last season they were 21-15-5 on the road. Though they cannot beat last year’s road record, another win tonight would tie the franchise record for most wins a season (49) that was set in 2006-2007.
The Sharks sit second in the West with 109 points, the same number as the first place Chicago Blackhawks (51-22-7), but are two wins shy of the Blackhawks for finishing first for the second consecutive season.
The Canucks suffered a 4-2 loss to the Sharks on March 27, the same game that Sharks lead scorer Joe Thornton (19-68-87) left the game with a lower body injury nearing the end of the second period after being checked by Canuck defenceman Alex Edler (5-36-41).
They could only manage one win over the Sharks this season as well as last season, and even with a confirmed playoff spot, the Canucks still have something to prove.
"It's the NHL, every night is hard, every night is a battle," said Andrew Raycroft following Wednesday's practice. "It doesn't matter what building it is. We work hard every night and we have a lot of pride. I know we're all going to battle tomorrow night."
Raycroft will have his last regular season start tonight while Matt Pettinger will play his first game since being recalled from the Manitoba Moose Tuesday. He will likely centre the fourth line with Jannik Hansen and Steve Bernier, as well as play on the penalty kill in place of the injured Ryan Johnson.
Nolan Baumgartner will dress tonight since being the healthy scratch for 16 games. He will skate with Alex Edler, giving Sami Salo a break before the post-season. Christian Ehrhoff did not travel with the team to San Jose and will skate on his own on Friday, likely to return for Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames. The other defensive pairings for today’s match are Shane O’Brien with Aaron Rome, and Kevin Bieksa with Andrew Alberts.
Mikael Samuelsson has moved up to the second line with Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra while Michael Grabner will skate on the third line with Kyle Wellwood and Mason Raymond. Healthy scratches for today’s game are Darcy Hordichuk, Rick Rypien, and Tanner Glass.
THE REAL DEAL
After being knocked out in the second round by the Blackhawks last season, the Canucks want to go deep this year, and feel they have the personnel to do it.
The Canucks have overcome obstacles all season. Even with many injuries, mainly to the Canucks blue line, the Canucks have managed to set a new franchise record for home wins (29), and are four points away from tying the franchise record for most points in a season (105), recorded in 2006-2007.
The Canucks endured the longest road trip in club history winning eight of 14 consecutive road games. They have six 20 goal scorers (Alex Burrows – 35, Mikael Samuelsson – 30, Henrik Sedin – 29, Daniel Sedin – 26, Mason Raymond – 25, Ryan Kesler – 24), the most in 15 seasons. The Canucks had eight 20 goal scorers in the 1992-1993 season.
The Canucks lead the league in home wins with 29, and have scored the third most goals with 263. Four of the top ten players in the league for plus/minus are Canucks (Daniel Sedin at +25, Henrik Sedin at +27, Christian Ehrhoff at +22, and Alex Burrows at +29).
The Sedins are number one when it comes to working hard and improving their game. After almost nine seasons with the Canucks, they lead the team in scoring. Henrik (29-78-107) excelled without brother Daniel who missed 19 games at the beginning of the season with a foot injury. He leads the league in both points and assists. Daniel is second despite his injury with 80 points (26-54-80).
Ehrhoff is the leading defensive scorer for the Canucks with 43 points (14-29-43), one more point than he earned last season with the Sharks. Alex Edler is close with 41 (5-36-41), four more than last season, a new career high. They exemplify the Canuck style of play when the defence joins the offence creating more scoring opportunities.
Mikael Samuelsson (30-23-53) has set new career highs in all categories this season since joining the Canucks. He has already earned 13 more points this year than he did last season with the Detroit Red Wings.
Ryan Kesler (24-50-74) has recorded 15 more points this season than he did last year. His speed and ability to get underneath players’ skin to get them off their game will serve the team well in the playoffs.
Alex Burrows has net new career highs in goals (35), assists (31), and points (66) and leads the league in short-handed goals (5). He recorded 19 points in the month of January (13-6-9) including back-to-back hat tricks.
"I think we have to realize that we're a good team and we have a chance," said Henrik. "A lot of guys made me think that we're going to have a chance every year, but that's not the case and we know that. I think with the team that we have here this year, we have a chance of going deep."