The Vancouver Canucks (26-16-9) open a four-game homestand tonight when the Nashvillle Predators (22-22-7) make their first visit of the season to Rogers Arena.
The Canucks have won back to back games for the first time since Christmas following Tuesday’s 2-1 victory in Edmonton and Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over Calgary. The Canucks are 8-1-3 in their last 12 games on home ice.
Defenseman Ryan Stanton returns to the line-up after missing 15 games with an ankle injury suffered December 17th in Minnesota. The Canucks will again be without the services of centres Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli. Jordan Schroeder has been assigned to Utica on a conditioning stint and will suit up for the Comets in Abbotsford on Friday and Saturday night.
Roberto Luongo has been very sharp in his return from injury. Luongo has stopped 59 of 62 shots (95.2%) in the past two games and has turned aside 105 of the past 110 shots he’s faced in his past three starts (95.6%).
Zack Kassian’s 10th goal of the season was the game winner in Edmonton. Kassian has scored three of the Canucks’ last eight goals. Kassian has 2+1 in his last four outings. While Kassian has found his scoring touch of late, a number of his teammates are struggling to score goals: Alex Burrows (19 games), David Booth (12), Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen (10), Brad Richardson (9), Chris Higgins (6). Despite scoring just seven goals as a team, the Canucks are 3-3 in their past six games.
The Canucks beat the Preds 3-1 in their first match-up of the season in Nashville on December 3rd. Ryan Kesler scored a pair that night and Brad Richardson had their other. Roberto Luongo stopped 31 of 32 shots.
The Predators are here having won three of their last four following Monday’s 4-1 victory over Dallas. Newcomer Michael Del Zotto is expected to make his Preds debut after being acquired from the New York Rangers yesterday in exchange for Kevin Klein.
Nashville is the best team in the league in the face-off circle winning 53.7% of their draws. Paul Gaustad is the best of their bunch at 59.2% followed by Matt Cullen at 57.3%.
Shea Weber leads all NHL defensemen with 13 goals and is sixth in d-man scoring with 34 points. He has 6+16=22 in his past 22 games and now trails David Legwand (8+27=35) by a single point for the Predators team lead in scoring.
As a team, the Preds have scored 15 goals in their past four outings.
Carter Hutton is expected to get his second straight start in goal. He made 35 saves against Dallas in his last outing and is on a personal three-game win streak.
Nashville assistant coach Lane Lambert has stayed behind on this four game road trip to be with his wife who is undergoing chemotherapy. Scott Nichol will be on the Predators bench in his absence.