Preparing for their first matinee game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks get set to take on the Sharks in San Jose this afternoon in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Both teams held optional practices yesterday in preparation for a 12:00pm start today.
Henrik Sedin (1g,5a), Kevin Bieksa (3g,1a), and Dan Hamhuis (1g,3a) lead Vancouver in head-to-head scoring this series while Patrick Marleau (4g,1a), Joe Thorton (1g,5a), and Dan Boyle (1g,3a) lead the Sharks. The Canucks have given up the first goal in each game, but have out-scored San Jose 10-2 in the third period.
The Canucks are expected to make at least two changes to their line-up today, as defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome both left Friday’s game with upper body injuries. Both Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts are eligible to make their series debuts, as is Chris Tanev who joined the team yesterday. If Tanev dresses today, he’ll be the 26th player to appear in a playoff game this year for Vancouver (goalies included). The 21 year-old appeared in 29 games during the season for the Canucks, registering one assist.
”It’s not good when guys who have been playing well for us go down,” said Ballard,” but it’s been the same story all year. We have to use our depth again and if it happens, I’m excited to get back in.”
Kevin Bieksa enters today’s action riding his first career three-game goal scoring streak (3g,1a). He shares the NHL playoff lead for most goals by a defenceman (4) and has the best plus-minus rating of any player in this series (+8).
In their 4-3 loss in Game 3 Friday night, the Canucks gave up three goals in ten short-handed situations. The last time Vancouver was short-handed ten times in a playoff game came April 7, 2004 when they surrendered ten power plays at home to the Calgary Flames in what was a 5-3 Canucks win.
The Canucks had seven power plays of their own, which they converted twice on, but Vancouver failed to score on a pair of lengthy 5-on-3 advantages and it was the difference in the game, according to Ryan Kesler.
”We didn’t get it done, bottom line is we didn’t get it done,” said Kesler. “We had a lot of good opportunities, their goalie made a couple saves and that’s going to happen sometimes. We know we have to be better and that’s the bottom line.”
It’s anybody’s guess as to whether or not San Jose makes any line-up changes today. Logan Couture did not finish Friday’s game after taking a blow to the head in a collision with teammate Ryane Clowe. Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan indicated after the game that Couture would play today and after practicing yesterday, Couture confirmed he’s good to go this afternoon.
With three assists in Game 3, Joe Thorton is now tied for the NHL playoff scoring lead (17 pts.). He is first overall in the post season in assists (14) and power play assists (8).
Patrick Marleau is now on a four-game goal scoring streak after netting two in Friday’s 4-3 victory in Game 3. It’s not the longest goal-scoring streak of his playoff career. In 2006, Marleau had eight goals over a span of five straight games.
The Sharks have allowed a NHL playoff-worst 15 short-handed goals against while the Canucks are second with 13.