Former teammates clash when Brandon Sutter and the Canucks face Nick Bonino and the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins on Hockey Fights Cancer night at Rogers Arena.
A visit from the Penguins is traditionally a must-see affair and tonight's game is no different with Pittsburgh rolling through town for the first and only time this season bringing a star-studded line-up as they often do with familiar names like Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, plus new faces including Phil Kessel. The names most fans will be focused on, though, are the ones involved in the summer blockbuster trade between the Canucks and Penguins – most notably Brandon Sutter and Nick Bonino – as they will face each other for the first time with their respective new clubs.
Secondary storylines aside, the Canucks' main focus will be to extend their win streak to a season-high three games coming off a convincing 4-1 victory over the Flyers on Monday. Their opponent, not to be outdone, has won seven of their last eight games and will be putting their season-high four-game win streak on the line. Chris Higgins, who suffered a foot injury in the pre-season opener, could make his regular season debut tonight likely at the expense of Sven Baertschi. Ryan Miller, fresh off a rest day yesterday from practice, is expected to start in net and go up against Marc-Andre Fleury.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
When you think of the Penguins, you don't think of a team that would struggle scoring given their embarrassment of riches when it comes to offensively-gifted players. And yet, putting pucks in net has been their greatest challenge so far in this young season. The Penguins have managed just 24 goals in 11 games to date for an average of 2.18 per game – a far cry even from last season when they averaged 2.65 which was only good for 19th best in the NHL. That's especially surprising considering the off-season moves they made specifically to try and bolster their offence. The most high-profile of the moves was trading for ex-Leaf Phil Kessel, who is coming off a 25-goal, 61-point season in Toronto. While the Penguins did deal away 21 goals and 33 points in the form of now-Canuck Brandon Sutter while allowing Blake Comeau (31 points) and Steve Downie (28 points) to depart as free agents, they made up for it on paper with the acquisitions of Matt Cullen, Eric Fehr, and former Canuck Nick Bonino. There are more than a few underperformers when it comes to offence for Pittsburgh, however, with Sidney Crosby being the easiest one to point a finger at. He has points in just two of 11 games played this season. The recent return of Fehr from injury should give the Pens an offensive boost but they still need to get the likes of Kunitz (2 goals) and Perron (2 assists) in addition to Crosby (5 points) to produce at a level they're capable of.
The fact the Penguins have managed to collect wins despite their offensive woes is a credit to their work at the defensive end of the ice and, specifically, the play of oft-criticized netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. Since dropping his first three starts of the season, Fleury has won six of his last seven games and has allowed two-or-fewer in each of those six victories. He'll be looking to extend his personal win streak to a season-high four games tonight. Fleury, who boasts an eye-popping 1.71 GAA and .942 save percentage heading into tonight's game, has only allowed two combined goals during his current three-game win streak, is coming off his second shutout of the season, and has not allowed a goal in 78:32 of consecutive playing time.
Keys to the Game
Get that first goal. In their last five games, the Canucks have not trailed at all in game play. Meanwhile, the Pens have trailed for a grand total of just 24 seconds over their last four outings. Needless to say, both teams know how to build leads and that will be a key in this game. Vancouver is 5-0-2 when scoring first, while Pittsburgh is 6-0.
Don't wake sleeping Sid. For some reason, points have not come easy for Crosby as it has in seasons past. The Canucks have obviously seen game film of what other teams are doing to him, and they'll want to follow suit and keep Crosby as quiet as possible.
Flower powers his team. Fleury's career statistics against Vancouver aren't stellar (3.05 GAA, .902 save percentage) but his hot start suggests he can improve those numbers tonight after not playing the Canucks last season. His best statistic? Four wins in six starts versus Vancouver.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Goals scored by the Penguins last season in two games against the Canucks. Vancouver scored eight.
Game played by Adam Clendening with Pittsburgh this season. He appeared in 17 with Vancouver last year.
Shot-less games for Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby this season. He only had 3 total all of last season.
Seasons spent by Brandon Sutter as a Penguin from 2012.13 to 2014.15.
Straight games against the Penguins without a regulation loss for the Canucks (2-0-3).
Consecutive home games without a regulation loss against the Penguins for the Canucks (4-0-3). Last regulation loss was November 3, 2000.