Dan Hamhuis returns tonight, after missing eight games with a deep ankle bruise.
As a result, Keith Ballard sits out tonight’s tilt with the Montreal Canadiens.
”This game is about guys who are playing the best and other guys are playing better than [Ballard],” said Alain Vigneault.
This is the first time Ballard’s been a healthy scratch in his 405 game career.
"You have to look at it from the team's point of view," Ballard told Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun. "No one's worried about egos here. No one's worried about their minutes or points; it's about getting the win. The guys that are playing are playing really well. You have to earn your time.”
"We're on a six-game winning streak. Whatever happens, whoever plays and whoever gets minutes, doesn't matter as long as we get that next win."
Hamhuis will playing with Aaron Rome, who has played nine games in his second season the Canucks. He currently has two assists.
"This is the best hockey Aaron Rome has played for us," defensive coach Rick Bowness, told MacIntyre. "Look at his minutes. He's on the second power-play unit and we've got the No. 1-ranked power play in the league. He has earned that ice time. He's doing what we need him to do."
Aaron Rome played 19:16 against the Red Wings, including 3:46 on the power play.
GAME DAY VS CANADIENS
The Canucks have the opportunity to match last season’s longest winning streak tonight ( 7 games, January 16 – 30th) when they play the Montreal Canadiens. The team has won six consecutive games, dating back to October 22nd when they beat the Minnesota Wild 5-1.
So far this season the Canucks are undefeated against Eastern Conference teams, while the Habs are winless against the West.
The Montreal penalty kill is doing better than any of the other teams that Canucks have faced recently, allowing only seven goals in 58 short handed opportunities.
On the powerplay the two teams sit on opposite ends of the stat sheet. Vancouver continues to lead the league, converting on 29.4% of their chances. Montreal, on the other, hand sits dead last in the league scoring just 6.4% of their chances with the man-advantage. They’ve only managed to take advantage of three of their 47 powerplay opportunities.
“It’s important for us to be aware that the Canucks’ best weapon right now is their power-play. They’re ranked first in the NHL. We’re going to need to show a lot of discipline and keep ourselves out of the penalty box,” said Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin on the team’s website. “When you look at the Canucks at five-on-five, their best line when it comes to goals is their third line with Malhotra, a little like us with our Halpern line. So it’s important for us to work hard and avoid penalties.”
The Canadiens also have an eye on the Sedin twins, who have combined for 32 points in 13 games.
“As far being able to shut down the Sedin twins I don’t think that there’s one guy who can really do it,” said centre Jeff Halpern. “It’s going to have to be group effort of all five guys out there on the ice trying to contain them.
Alain Vigneault is one win away from his 300th career win as his team goes up against the team he earned his very first win.
The game starts 4:30 PST on Canucks.com and Sportsnet Pacific.
Tonight’s game in Bell Centre marks the first night of a five game road trip. This is the team’s longest trip since the record setting 14 straight road games from January 30th to March 13th surrounding last season’s Olympic break.
After Montreal, the team will take on Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo and Pittsburgh but after last year’s epic road trip, he’s confident the team will adjust.
"That 14-gamer was definitely very challenging, but this road trip here of five games - every other night - where we're staying in the same timezone is fine," Vigneault said. "The travel out east is a lot easier than out west and we look forward to meeting these teams. We don't see them very often."