The Canucks welcome an old rival to Rogers Arena tonight when they play host to the Boston Bruins on Hockey Night in Canada.
Heading into tonight's game, the Canucks have two reasons to be hot under the collar. First off, a visit from the Bruins always seems to guarantee some bad blood to go with it. Secondly, Vancouver can't be too happy about the fact they've now squandered back-to-back strong performances from their netminders. In Thursday's case, they came away totally empty-handed in a 4-2 loss to the Stars in a game they were out-shot 34-16 but still found themselves tied until late in the third period. The Canucks, looking to avoid dropping a fifth straight game for the first time all season long, will face a "must win" scenario tonight according to Coach Desjardins taking on a Bruins team that comes into the game having earned points in seven straight (5-0-2) but are coming off back-to-back losses including falling 5-4 in overtime last night in Calgary.
The Canucks will get a bit of a shot in the arm tonight with the expected returns of Ben Hutton and Chris Higgins to the line-up although they continue to be without the likes of Luca Sbisa and Jake Virtanen, both of whom would have been ideally suited for a more physical match-up as is usually the case against Boston. Brandon Prust and Dan Hamhuis were among the players who sat out yesterday's practice and, although Coach Desjardins noted it was a maintenance day for both, he also suggested that they could be considered day-to-day putting in doubt their potential participation in tonight's contest.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on CBC & 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're a team that carries an expectation to challenge for the Cup each season like the Bruins, missing the playoffs as they did last year is simply unacceptable. So when the Bruins failed to even qualify for the dance, changes were quickly afoot and shown the door was general manager Peter Chiarelli, the architect of their 2011 championship team. Chiarelli's firing was just the precursor to a busy summer of change for Boston highlighted by the high-profile departures of former faces of the franchise, Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic, in separate deals. If the Bruins were hoping to change the culture with those moves, it's been so far so good. Aside from a couple of hiccups – a three-game losing streak to start the season and a three-game losing streak to start November – the Bruins have done a lot of winning. A revitalized Zdeno Chara has helped offset the offence lost on the backend from Hamilton's departure, while David Krejci, who missed a large chunk of games last season due to injury, is off to a flying start essentially replacing the offence they lost up front with Lucic leaving.
What really helped keep the Bruins in the playoff hunt last season, up until the very end, was their defensive play. So while the offence has vastly improved this season – they are averaging 3.25 goals per game this season, well up from the 2.55 they managed last season – they haven't quite been as sharp when it comes to keeping the puck out of their own net. Incumbent starter Tuukka Rask would have liked to get off to a better start as he's endured his fair share of struggles this season. Rask has allowed three-or-more goals in six of his 18 games played so far this season. It's not fair to pin the increase in goals against squarely on Rask's shoulders. It may be a case where the more familiar their blue-liners get with one another, the better they will be as an overall defensive unit. Boston has already utilized 10 different defencemen this season, three of whom did not see action with the Bruins a year ago. Expect to see Rask in goal for the Bruins tonight despite the fact he played the majority of yesterday's game in Calgary despite it not being a scheduled start. He came into the game in relief of Jonas Gustavsson, who was pulled early in the second period after allowing three goals on 11 shots.
Keys to the Game
Feed off the heat. 2011 may seem like a long time ago now but it's safe to say the bad blood still exists between the two. Whatever extra motivation the Canucks can glean from that old rivalry, they need to use it to their advantage tonight.
Some shots, please. It doesn't matter how good your goaltending is. You won't win many games if you're managing just 16 shots a night like the Canucks have in each of their last two outings. They need pucks on net and plenty of it.
Silence the Sedins. In Vancouver's last five outings, only one goal has come without a Sedin on the ice. It's not hard for the Bruins to figure out who they need to key in on to stop the Canucks right now. Daniel and Henrik were held to just two combined assists versus Boston last year despite Vancouver sweeping the two-game series.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Canucks against Eastern Conference teams this season (3-6-3).
Win percentage for the Canucks with Ben Hutton out of the line-up (2-3-2).
Meeting between the Canucks and Bruins since the 2011 Cup Final. Vancouver is 4-1 (2-0 at home).
Percent power play efficiency for the Bruins this season, best in the NHL (22-for-71).
Regular season games played by Matt Bartkowski as a Boston Bruin from 2010.11 to 2014.15.
Career regular season NHL games played in by Bruins forward Brad Marchand after he suits up tonight.