The Canucks will try to get back on the winning track tonight when they take on the suddenly streaking Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.
If the Canucks were to assess how the first four games of their seven-game road trip has gone, they would undoubtedly agree that they've left far too many points on the table. That was the case again on Thursday in Ottawa when, despite a multitude of scoring chances, they could not muster enough offence when they needed it the most falling 3-2 to the Senators and seeing their record on the trip drop to 1-2-1. A win tonight over the Maple Leafs – a team that sits in the Atlantic Division basement – would give them the opportunity to still make this trip a successful one heading into the final two games in Montreal and Winnipeg. A loss, on the other hand, and it may be a struggle just to get to the .500 mark by the time it's all said and done.
The Canucks are expected to dress the same line-up tonight as they did on Thursday with Brandon Sutter likely to sit out due to his lower body injury. Vancouver will shift a few bodies around, however, most notably moving Burrows down to play with Cracknell and Dorsett, while putting Higgins, McCann, and Vrbata together on a new-look trio. Ryan Miller, who lasted just a period and a half at the Air Canada Centre in last year's visit, expects to get the call tonight between the pipes. Toronto is looking to extend their season-high two-game win streak.
Puck drop at 4 pm PT – Live on CBC, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
Change was the theme for the Leafs in the off-season as they overhauled their entire organization both on and off the ice. Though it's not often a coach takes on the title of 'face of the franchise,' Mike Babcock is the exception to the rule as the arrival of the former Red Wings coach marked the start of a new era and signified a culture change in Toronto. The team that Babcock inherited, however, is clearly not as talent-laden as the one he left behind in Detroit. The talent pool got even thinner when they dealt away their leading point producer and second-leading goal scorer, Phil Kessel, to Pittsburgh without exactly receiving equal return in terms of immediate help. The Leafs did bring in several veterans to try and fill the goal scoring void including PA Parenteau, Brad Boyes, and ex-Canucks Michael Grabner and Shawn Matthias but none of them have exactly made the fans forget about the departed Kessel with their production to date. Toronto certainly also needs to have Nazem Kadri (1 goal, 6 points) and Tyler Bozak (2 goals, 7 points) pick up their play as well but as far as pleasant surprises go, Leo Komarov has provided one. Komarov has five goals already this season after producing a career-high eight last season.
One of the Leafs' biggest problem areas last season was their inability to prevent goals. With Jonathan Bernier stumbling out of the gate (0-6-1; 3.02 GAA; .899 save percentage) and then subsequently suffering an injury, the door has swung wide open for James Reimer. Reimer has done more than his part to keep the Leafs within striking distance of the playoff picture by helping his team earn points in all-but-two of his nine starts to date. He brings a personal four-game regulation undefeated streak into tonight's tilt allowing just seven goals on 113 shots faced during that stretch (.938 save percentage). Bernier, meanwhile, hasn't started since October 31 and recently sat out four games due to a lower-body injury although he did return to back up Reimer in the Leafs' win over Nashville on Thursday. Conventional wisdom suggests the Leafs should roll with the hot hand and give Reimer the start tonight although, with Toronto also playing on Sunday, they may opt to go with Bernier versus Vancouver and then go back to Reimer the next night against the Rangers.
Keys to the Game
Don't give the home team confidence. The ACC has not been kind to the Leafs this season as the home team has won just one of seven games (1-4-2). The home team has also fallen behind first in six of those seven games. The Canucks will want to pounce early on the Leafs and not give them any reason to believe this game will be much different than their previous home outings.
More shots for Sven. Very quietly Sven Baertschi has crept up among the team leader in points thanks to two goals and three points in his last three outings despite the fact he only has three combined shots in that time. The Canucks are desperate for offence and Sven's got a hot stick right now. He needs to find a way to put more pucks on net.
Help Reimer steal the gig. Not since the lockout-shortened 2012.13 season has James Reimer been thought of as "the man" in Toronto but his recent string of strong play is turning back the clock. Considering how well he has played, the team will want to respond with another strong effort to try and keep him in that spot.
Canucks Gameday Road Report, Presented by Toyota
By the Numbers
NHL games played by ex-Canuck Frank Corrado since being claimed by Toronto on waivers.
Straight losses for the Canucks at the Air Canada Centre.
Points for Leafs forward Shawn Matthias this season. He had a career-high 27 points with Vancouver last year.
Times the Leafs have opened the scoring in a game this season, tied for fewest in the NHL (WPG, NJD).
Consecutive games the Canucks have trailed in at least some point during the contest.
Saturday game for the Maple Leafs this season. They have yet to win (0-3-2).