The Canucks look to snap their two-game losing streak tonight when they make their lone visit to la belle province to take on the Carey Price-less Montreal Canadiens.
When the Canucks started this road trip nine days ago in Buffalo, despite the daunting task of playing seven in a row away from home, there was a sense that they could actually use it as an opportunity to build on a strong opening month to their season and stretch the lead they had given themselves in the Pacific Division standings. Instead, the best they can hope for now is to salvage a .500 record on the trip – not an easy task with two games to go against tough opponents including tonight's game against a Habs team that is also looking to get back on the winning track. Both the Canucks and Canadiens come into tonight's game winless in two straight. Vancouver went 0-for-2 in Ontario prior to arriving in Montreal, most recently dropping a 4-2 decision on Saturday to the Leafs. Montreal, meanwhile, is coming off their most lopsided loss of the season on Saturday – a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Avalanche.
A visit to Montreal usually means a homecoming of sorts for several Canucks, notably former Habs and Francophone players. However, two Canucks in particular will likely miss out on their homecoming moment. Quebec-native Alex Burrows has returned to Vancouver due to a personal reason and is doubtful to play. Brandon Prust, a former Canadien who has been recovering from an ankle injury he suffered playing against his former club back on October 27, won't be available either. Rookie forward Hunter Shinkaruk will make his NHL debut tonight provided Burrows does not re-join the club in time. Netminder Jacob Markstrom, who won his season debut in Columbus six nights ago, could get the call for the Canucks.
Puck drop at 4:30 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
It's not often a team can lose its best player – someone who just happens to be one of the best on the planet at his position – without missing a beat but that's just what the Habs have done. Shortly after their visit to Vancouver back on October 27, Canadiens netminder Carey Price went down with a lower body injury and has only recently resumed skating. Montreal, however, is 4-1-2 since losing their superstar goalie and for that they owe a great deal of thanks to 25-year-old Michael Condon. The undrafted and unheralded netminder, who has bounced around several ECHL and AHL teams prior to this season, not only stole the back-up job from Dustin Tokarski coming out of training camp but became a minor sensation when he became just the third goalie in Habs history to win his first four-or-more career NHL starts. In fact, prior to the Habs' loss on Saturday where Condon allowed four goals in a game for the first time and was pulled after two periods, he actually had posted better overall numbers (1.73 GAA, .936 save percentage) than Price (2.01 GAA, .936 save percentage) on the season in one only less game played.
It hasn't just been Condon and the defence that has kept Montreal on a roll in the absence of Price. The offence has been doing their part as well. Since that last meeting against the Canucks, Montreal has scored at three-or-more goals in six of eight games played. The top line of Pacioretty-Plekanec-Gallagher has certainly been one of the best in the NHL and all three of those players come into tonight's contest with matching four-game point streaks combining for six goals and 16 points over that stretch. Beyond those forwards, not to mention the always-dangerous back-end duo of P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, another name the Canucks will need to keep a close eye on is someone that used to share their bench – Dale Weise. The "Dutch Gretzky" sits tied with Pacioretty and Gallagher for the team's goal scoring lead with eight. Weise is point-less in three outings so you can bet he'd love nothing more than to bump his mini slump against the team that jettisoned him just two short seasons ago.
Keys to the Game
Urgency right from puck drop. If the Canucks are going to insist on playing catch-up hockey – something they have been forced to do in six straight games now – they might as well condition themselves to thinking they're behind right from the beginning. They need to start the game with the same third period desperation they've shown lately and keep it up all game.
Youthful exuberance pays off. It's not hard to get fired up when you're playing in Montreal, but that will be especially the case tonight for Hunter Shinkaruk if make his NHL debut. The Canucks will want to feed off the rookie's energy, not to mention try and get him the puck as well considering how hot he's been in the AHL with 10 goals in 12 games.
Pressure the neutral zone. If there's one thing the Canucks have been extremely guilty of lately, it's turning the puck over in the neutral leading to odd-man rushes and chances for their opponents. The Habs will want to pick up on this and force the Canucks to keep giving up the puck in the middle of the ice.
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By the Numbers
Wins for the Canucks when trailing after two periods this season (0-5).
Rookies to appear in a game for the Canucks this season (Gaunce, Hutton, McCann, Virtanen). Shinkaruk would be the 5th.
Game personal winless streak for Ryan Miller (0-4-1) entering play tonight, his longest as a Canuck.
Straight games without a regulation win for the Canucks in Montreal (1-5-0, lone win came via shootout).
Different Canucks to record a point vs Montreal on October 27. Three of them (Sbisa, Prust, Sutter) are not expected to play tonight.
Straight starts for Carey Price in head-to-head games vs Canucks. That streak will end today.