On the heels of their highest scoring output of the playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks look to take a commanding lead in their Western Conference Final series tonight in San Jose against the Sharks.
Vancouver has won five of their last six games, while San Jose has lost five of their last six.
Henrik Sedin (1g,4a), Kevin Bieksa (2g,1a), and Chris Higgins (1g,2a) lead Vancouver in head-to-head scoring this series, while Patrick Marleau (2g), Joe Thorton (1g,1a), and Dan Boyle (2a) lead the Sharks. Vancouver has gone a combined 4-for-11 on the power play while San Jose has gone 3-for-3.
Mikael Samuelsson will not be available for the Canucks for the remainder of the playoffs following surgery to his abductor tendon and sports hernia. Alexandre Bolduc has joined the Canucks on this road trip and is the only player travelling with the team who had been re-called earlier this month from the Manitoba Moose.
Bolduc is expected to draw into the line-up tonight, likely replacing Cody Hodgson while Tanner Glass could take the spot of Jeff Tambellini, although coach Alain Vigneault didn’t reveal anything after the morning skate.
“Alex has good size, real strong skater, this year he played over 20 games with our team and he’s got that ability to get in on the forecheck,” Vigneault said of Bolduc. “If we do make some changes, that’s what he can bring.”
“We’re looking at different possibilities right now,” clairified Vigneault.
Roberto Luongo is the first goalie to collect ten wins in this year’s playoffs. He has not won a game at the HP Pavilion since April 7, 2007 in what was a 4-3 Canucks victory in overtime. Cory Schneider appeared in both games in San Jose for the Canucks this year as they out-scored their opponents 9-7 in those match-ups.
When asked why Luongo has struggled of late in the Shark Tank, coach V responded, “if that’s the case, he’d due.”
With five points this series, Henrik Sedin has vaulted himself into a tie for fifth in NHL scoring (2g,12a). He is now first in the NHL in assists and has points in four of his last five games (2g,7a). Daniel Sedin is now the playoff leader in goals (8) and power play goals (5). Chris Higgins now shares the NHL for most game-winning goals in the playoffs (3).
The Canucks are approaching Game 3 the same as the first two outings of the series, but they know noise could be a factor. Taking the crowd out of it early is crucial.
“Communication obviously is the first thing that is affected with dump-ins and stuff like that,” said Kevin Bieksa.
“We had problems in the past, in Nashville particularly, where it was really loud all throughout the game and it’s tough to communicate with your goalie, tough to communicate with your partner and the other players on the ice. That’s an area that we’re pretty good at is talking to each other, so that’s affected for sure.”
The Sharks are not expected to make any drastic changes to their line-up. However, head coach Todd McLellan did say he may change up his line combinations after giving up seven goals against in Game 2.
Patrick Marleau has goals in his last three straight playoff games. He now has 50 career playoff goals, 19 of which have come on the power play.
Since joining the Sharks, goaltender Antti Niemi has played Vancouver six times. In those meetings, he has allowed a combined 25 goals against.