The Canucks play game two of their seven-game road trip this afternoon when they pay a visit to the Prudential Center to take on Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils.
For the first time this season, the Canucks are coming off back-to-back games where they've failed to pick up at least a single point. If the Canucks want to avoid a third straight regulation loss – a second straight to begin their marathon road trip – they'll need to find a way to avoid the same third period defensive collapses that have plagued them in their two most recent outings. Yesterday in Buffalo, the Canucks valiantly clawed back from a 2-0 deficit only to surrender a heartbreaking goal with just 16.8 seconds left in regulation to lose 3-2 to the Sabres.
The Canucks won't reveal any line-up hints until the morning skate at the earliest so we'll have to wait and see who gets the call to face a Devils team that has won three of their last four, and seven of their last nine entering play today. All eyes figure to be on the crease for Vancouver as it remains to be seen whether Ryan Miller starts for a second straight day or whether the Canucks go with back-up Richard Bachman. New Jersey, barring the unforeseen, will start Cory Schneider against his former team.
Puck drop at 2 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
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On paper, the Devils won't frighten anyone with their offensive prowess. The team that new head coach John Hynes inherited, which finished 20 points out of a playoff spot in 2014.15, managed a total of just 176 goals scored last season – third fewest in the league ahead of only the Coyotes and Sabres. Allowing Scott Gomez and Steve Bernier, their fourth and fifth leading scorers albeit hardly superstar names, to walk away doesn't help matters nor does having Patrik Elias, their third-leading point producer last season, sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury with no timetable for a return. All that said the Devils, who are averaging just 2.38 goals per game this season which puts them in the bottom-half of the league, do have the ability to surprise teams here and there with their offensive output. In their last seven outings, they've exploded for four goals on four occasions including in their most recent game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Friday. New Jersey might not have much scoring depth, but their top guys – namely Cammalleri, Zajac, Palmieri, Stempniak, and Henrique – are certainly performing. Four of the aforementioned are already in double-digit point scoring while Henrique, who is tied for the goal-scoring lead with six, is right on the cusp with nine points.
The Devils, as has been the case for many years, ultimately know that their bread-and-butter is with their defensive play and the man they turn to be their star night in and night out is former Canuck Cory Schneider. After a career-season in 2014.15 that saw him post career-highs in games played (69), wins (26) and shutouts (5) while finishing fifth in the league with a .925 save percentage, the former Vancouver first-round draft pick looks to be well on his way to another fine campaign. He's responsible for all seven of his team's wins to date and he's only allowed more than three goals in a game in one of his 11 starts. His last four starts have been particularly impressive. He's allowed just seven combined goals while stopping 110 of 117 shots for a .940 save percentage.
Keys to the Game
Cover the points. On all three goals the Canucks allowed yesterday afternoon, all three were a result of the opposition point man having plenty of time and space to make a play. If the Canucks, who were only credited with five blocked shots yesterday, leave the points that wide open again today, they'll have to get used to fishing the puck out of their own net.
Silence the top-six. Once you get past names like Cammalleri, Zajac, and Henrique, the Devils don't exactly have much scoring depth. New Jersey’s top-six, which also includes Zajac, Palmieri and currently Tlusty, have carried the team so far. Vancouver can't afford to take them lightly even if those names don't exactly scream offensive juggernaut.
Strike first, shut the door after. The Devils are one of four teams that have yet to lose a game when opening the scoring. Unfortunately for them they've only opened the scoring four times in 13 games played. Getting that first goal allows them to set the tone of the game which means a frustrating night for the opposition.
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By the Numbers
Straight games without a power play goal for Vancouver. Their season-long drought is 4 games.
Time this season the Canucks will play on zero days rest. They won their previous two games.
Time (expected today) Cory Schneider will face the Canucks. He has a 1-1-2 record with a 2.21 GAA and .920 save percentage.
Times in 8 defeats this season Vancouver has surrendered either the tying or game-winning goal in the 3rd period.
Starts in a row for Devils goalie Cory Schneider entering play today. His career-high is 20 set last season.
Goals surrendered in 3rd periods by Vancouver. They've allowed just 15 in 1st and 2nd periods, combined.