Preparing for their sixth opportunity these playoffs to eliminate an opponent from the post season, the Canucks are back in Nashville for Game 6 of their Western Conference Semi Final series against the Predators.
Vancouver has only clinched a playoff series twice in club history by winning a Game 6 (2010-1st Round @ Los Angeles and 1993-1st Round @ Winnipeg).
Ryan Kesler (5g,4a), Christian Ehrhoff (1g,4a), and Christopher Higgins (2g,1a) lead Vancouver in head-to-head scoring this series while Joel Ward (4g,3a), David Legwand (3g,1a), and Ryan Suter (1g,2a) lead the Preds.
Head coach Alain Vigneault will be forced to make at least one change to his line-up tonight and maybe more after Vancouver’s 4-3 loss in Game 5 on Saturday. Mikael Samuelsson did not make the trip to Nashville after suffering a lower body injury. Higgins, who blocked a shot from Preds defenceman Kevin Klein in Game 5, started to take part in Vancouver’s morning skate but left the ice early. He is expected to play this evening. When Higgins wasn’t on the ice, Victor Oreskovich skated on a line with Kesler and Mason Raymond while Jeff Tambellini practiced with Tanner Glass and Cody Hodgson.
While no changes are expected on defence, the pairings on the blue line are expected to be different. Salo practiced alongside Alex Edler, while Ehrhoff was next to Aaron Rome.
Through the first five games of this series, the Canucks have killed off 15 of 16 Nashville power plays (93.8%). On the flip side, Vancouver has given up two short-handed goals in the last three games. The Canucks have surrendered the most short-handed goals against in the playoffs (3) after only allowing two short-handed goals during the regular season.
Through their first 12 playoff games, Vancouver leads the NHL in hits (416) while Maxim Lapierre leads all skaters in the same category (45).
Following their fourth road win of the playoffs, the Predators may make some changes to their roster. Jerred Smithson says he’s healthy enough to play tonight after not making the trip to Vancouver on Saturday. Nick Spaling who left Game 5 after taking a hit into the end boards from Sami Salo is also expected to be available.
Joel Ward is now in a four-way tie for the NHL lead in goals (7). He has only gone two playoff games this year without registering a point. David Legwand leads the playoffs in short-handed goals (2). He has three career playoff goals for the Preds, half of the club’s career post-season total.
Shea Weber, very quietly, has gone his last six games without a point. That is the longest point-less streak the Nashville captain has gone all year. Only once this season did Weber go five-in-a-row without hitting the score-sheet (Dec. 18-28). Weber’s defensive partner Ryan Suter leads all skaters in the playoffs in average ice time (29:03).