When the NHL schedule first came out and the Canucks saw this early four-game road swing that would take them into four very hostile buildings to face four playoff teams from last season, they had to figure it would be real test of character for their group. That test figures to be even more challenging with the Canucks having to at least start the trip shorthanded. On Sunday, Vancouver not only saw their four-game win streak snapped with a 3-1 loss to the Predators but also saw two players go down with injuries in Kevin Bieksa and Tom Sestito. With Alex Burrows also unavailable tonight as he serves the final game of his three-game suspension, the Canucks will need to dig deep if they want to knock off an Avs team that pummeled them by a 7-3 score 11 days ago. The injury to Sestito means that 19-year-old Bo Horvat will make his NHL debut tonight. Bieksa's status was updated on Tuesday morning and, luckily for the Canucks, he is expected to dress tonight against the Avalanche.
The Avs had hoped that their aforementioned blowout win over the Canucks back on October 24 would propel them back onto the winning track after a slow start to their season. Unfortunately, it hasn't quite worked out that way. Since that victory, the Avs have just one win in their last five outings (1-1-3) and their offence hasn't exactly been sparked either as they've only managed to score more than two goals in a game in one of those five contests. The Avs, who are playing the second of three straight games at the Pepsi Center, started off their home stand with a 3-2 loss to the Ducks on Sunday. Tonight's game is the second of three meetings between the former Northwest Division rivals and marks the final visit for the Canucks to the Pepsi Center this season. After tonight, the Canucks and Avs won't meet again until March 26 at Rogers Arena. Ryan Miller and Semyon Varlamov are the expected starters for their respective clubs.
Puck drop at 6 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Keys to the Game
Put more pucks on net. Coach Desjardins lamented after Sunday's loss that the Canucks, despite generating many scoring chances, couldn't find a way to get shots against the Preds when it counted. In some ways that was the case as well the last time they faced the Avs. Colorado has been known to give up plenty of shots (they averaged 35.4 shots against per game) so that should work in Vancouver's favour.
Limit the odd-man rushes. The Canucks only gave up three goals in Sunday's loss to Nashville but it could have been much more had the Preds been able to capitalize on their numerous odd-man rushes especially in the opening period. The Avs are a team that can take advantage when they get that kind of open ice and they showed it the last time they faced the Canucks. Vancouver needs to avoid giving Colorado those types of opportunities.
MacKinnon continues his hot streak. After starting the season with no goals and just four points in his first 10 outings, last season's rookie of the year has found his scoring touch netting four goals and five points over his last three games. The Avs need that production to continue from a player they've come to depend on to be a difference-maker on offence.
By the Numbers
Team-worst plus-minus rating for Luca Sbisa in the last game against the Avs.
Straight games without a point for Daniel Sedin, his longest point-less streak this season.
Game personal win streak for Semyon Varlamov in head-to-head meetings against the Canucks.
Game winless streak in Denver for the Canucks dating back to April 13, 2013 (0-2-1).
Games missed by Kevin Bieksa last season. The Canucks went 0-6 in his absence.
Shots by the Avs against the Canucks back on Oct. 24 – season-high for Avs & season-high against for Canucks.