At the outset of this seven-game stretch away from Rogers Arena, the general consensus was that tonight's contest against the Penguins would mark the toughest challenge for the Canucks. Not only is that the case, but it's also going to be the most pivotal game of the trip in terms of momentum for the Canucks the rest of the way. A win tonight over one of the beasts of the East and it sets the Canucks up to make this a great trip as they enter the back half. A loss tonight and it could be a struggle to do any better than a .500 record the rest of the way. Vancouver, coming off a 4-3 win on Tuesday in Washington, has never won at the CONSOL Energy Center losing both of their visits there since the arena opened. Their last win in Pittsburgh was in their final visit to the Mellon Arena – a 3-1 victory on November 22, 2008.
The Penguins come into tonight's game as winners of four of their last five games although it's been their goaltending and defence that has been leading the way as opposed to their vaunted offence. Pittsburgh, coming off a 1-0 win over New Jersey on Tuesday, has been held to three-or-fewer goals in five of their last six outings. Perhaps the most intriguing part of tonight's game will be the goaltending match-up. Marc-Andre Fleury, fresh off his 29-save shutout of the Devils, is a safe bet to get the call for the Penguins. The Canucks, meanwhile, confirmed on Thursday morning that Eddie Lack will start for the first time since a 4-3 shootout loss to the Ducks on November 20. Lack had his apparent scheduled start on Tuesday nixed in favour of Ryan Miller. Another interesting subplot in this game is that it features two head coaches - Vancouver's Willie Desjardins and Pittsburgh's Mike Johnston - who interviewed with their respective counterpart's organization during the off-season. In Desjardins' case, he was thought to be the front-runner for the Penguins job before he opted to sign with the Canucks instead. This is the first of two meetings between Vancouver and Pittsburgh this season. The Penguins visit Rogers Arena on February 7.
Puck drop at 4 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet 360, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Keys to the Game
Don't show too much respect. It's hard to not be in awe sometimes when you go up against the likes of Crosby or Malkin but, as Coach Desjardins said after their loss on Sunday in Detroit, the Canucks can't respect their opposition too much tonight and give them free rein to work their magic especially on offence.
Keep the power play sizzling. Special teams might just be the difference-maker in this contest and Vancouver's suddenly red hot power play will want to take advantage of Pittsburgh's PK which has slumped recently giving up four goals on 13 shorthanded situations over their last three games.
Sidney shapes up. Sidney Crosby has reportedly been under the weather lately which might explain why he's gone point-less in his last two outings. He hasn't gone three straight games without a point all season long. The Pens are a significantly better team when Crosby is operating closer to 100 percent than obviously what he's been at in recent games.
By the Numbers
Season as an NHL head coach for Pittsburgh's Mike Johnston, a former Canuck assistant.
Times, out of 24 games played, this season the Penguins have not led or been tied after two periods.
Times the Canucks have scored multiple power play goals this season. They are 4-0 in those games.
Straight losses for the Canucks in head-to-head meetings against the Penguins, the last three going beyond regulation.
Career PPGs for Daniel Sedin. He needs 1 more to take sole possession of 1st place on the all-time franchise list surpassing Markus Naslund.
Consecutive games played by Pittsburgh's Craig Adams including tonight. It ties him for the franchise record held by Ron Schock.