The two hot topics lately when it comes to the Canucks have been their win streak, which now sits at four games following last night's 3-2 win in Edmonton, and their upcoming road trip to California where they'll face the three teams from that state that caused them all sorts of grief last season. But while the fans, and perhaps the players to some extent, might already be looking forward to that measuring stick road swing, the importance of heading into that trip with momentum can't be overstated. It's why the Canucks can't afford to overlook tonight’s game against a surprising Predators team that sits near the top of the Western Conference standings. A victory over the Preds would give the Canucks every reason to be confident heading into the trip which kicks off in Colorado on Tuesday while a loss could cause a few doubts to creep into their mind about just how ready they are to battle the supposed NHL elite teams. Tonight's game could mark the NHL debut of Bo Horvat, the Canucks first-round pick from 2013. Horvat was officially recalled from his conditioning assignment in Utica (AHL) this morning.
The Preds bring a significantly different look to tonight's game compared to just a year ago, most notably behind the bench with Peter Laviolette as the new head coach having taken over from Barry Trotz. Nashville also made several significant off-season moves to their roster bringing in the likes of offensive stars James Neal, Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro to help bolster the offence. Neal and Ribeiro have been particularly impressive in their respective first months as Preds. Neal leads the team with seven goals while Ribeiro shares the team lead in points with eight. This game is the third of a season-high six-game road swing for the Preds, who began the trip with a 4-1 win on Wednesday in Edmonton before dropping a 4-3 decision on Friday in Calgary. The Canucks won two of three meetings against the Predators last season. Eddie Lack could get the start for the Canucks after Ryan Miller played last night in Edmonton while Pekka Rinne, who did not see any action against the Canucks last season, will likely get the call for the Preds. Nashville will be without defenceman Anton Volchenkov as the league announced today that he has been suspended four games for his illegal check to the head of Calgary's Michael Ferland on Friday.
Puck drop at 6:30 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Keys to the Game
Win one for Eddie. Assuming Eddie Lack gets the call between the pipes as has typically been the case this season on the back end of back-to-backs, you'd have to think the Canucks are dying to get their affable backup netminder his first win. Lack's numbers (4.62 GAA & .862 save percentage) aren't pretty this season but the Canucks didn't exactly turn in superb efforts in the games that he has started. Tonight would be a good time to change that.
Get everyone involved. One of the things the Canucks have done quite well this season is spread out the ice-time among all four lines. It certainly makes it easier to do so when you're getting contributions from every line as the Canucks have been of late. Having that balanced attack will be especially critical playing on zero days of rest – something the Canucks have struggled with losing both games they've played after having played the night before.
Neal keeps lighting it up. Newcomer James Neal is clearly the engine that drives the offence. He leads the Preds in both goals (7) and shots (38) this season. Nashville will be looking for him to continue doing what he's been doing.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Preds this season when Shea Weber scores (3-0-1).
Win percentage for the Canucks this season when not allowing a PPG (6-0). They haven't allowed a PPG in 4 straight.
Average penalty minutes per game for Nashville, the least penalized team in the NHL.
Games played by Derek Roy with the Canucks in 2012.13. Nashville is Roy's second team since leaving Vancouver.
Average per game ice-time for Shea Weber, second highest in league. (VAN leader – Edler 22:59).
Percent of Nashville's games this season where they've given up the opening goal (7 of 10).