The Canucks travel to the Honda Center tonight to battle the Anaheim Ducks and a few familiar faces.
Motivation is usually never an issue when you're going up against one of the top teams in the league but there will be extra special incentive for both sides tonight. This game is, of course, the first time the Canucks and Ducks will meet since they got together on June 30 to swing the deal that sent popular defenceman Kevin Bieksa to Anaheim. The Ducks, who already boast former Vancouver fan-favourite in Ryan Kesler on their roster from a trade two off-seasons ago, also signed one-time Canuck Mike Santorelli as part of a busy summer.
While the clash of former teammates is sure to be the prevailing storyline in this contest, the Canucks will primarily be focused on bouncing back from a 3-2 overtime loss in their home opener to the Flames on Saturday by spoiling the Ducks' home opener tonight. Anaheim began their season on a sour note dropping a 2-0 decision on Saturday to the Sharks. The Canucks did not tip their hat on tonight's line-up in yesterday's practice although Ryan Miller is expected to start in net.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Vancouver Hockey, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
Despite a disappointing exit in the Western Conference Championship, the Ducks avoided the temptation to make sweeping changes to their roster. It was probably the right decision. Anaheim, after all, had the best record in the Western Conference and only trailed the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canadiens by four points in the final standings. That being said, the Ducks were a team that was more about the sum of their parts than just individual areas standing out. They finished a modest 11th in goals-for and 20th in goals-against last season. Their power play was rather dreadful finishing 28th in the league, while their penalty kill was middle of the pack finishing 15th. What they were, however, was a team that could deliver in the clutch. They set an NHL single-season record for most wins when trailing at any point in the third period (18), and tied an NHL record for most wins when trailing after two periods (12). They also went a staggering 33-1-7 in one-goal games. That lone regulation loss in one-goal games happened to come against the Canucks in the teams' most recent clash – a 2-1 Vancouver win on March 9.
The Ducks did make some additions that they are hoping bolster some of those rather unimposing statistics at both ends of the ice. Carl Hagelin had a career-high 35 points last season with the Rangers, while Chris Stewart has put up big numbers at various points in his career although he managed just 36 points last season split between Buffalo and Minnesota. Veterans Shawn Horcoff and Kevin Bieksa, the latter who should be very familiar to Canucks fans, will bring some grit and penalty killing experience. Realistically, however, the Ducks will go as far as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler take them. All three enjoyed solid campaigns last season with Getzlaf leading the way with 70 points and, despite all three being 30-and-older to begin the new season, the Ducks remain one of the popular picks as Stanley Cup favourites which suggests the pundits feel the big-three have plenty left in the gas tank.
Keys to the Game
Play the spoiler. So far the Canucks have been involved in two games where a home opener has been spoiled, so they might as well go for the hat trick. The Ducks will be faced with the usual distractions that come with the first home game so Vancouver will want to come out strong and put some early pressure on a team that might still be buzzing over the hoopla.
Bring twin magic. Forget the Magic Kingdom. The only magic the Canucks want to see performed is by the twins at the Honda Center. Last season Daniel and Henrik combined for just two assists in five games against Anaheim. Those numbers have to be much better this season and it starts tonight.
Feed off Juice. Facing his former team for the first time, much like Kesler the year before, you know Bieksa will be fired up for this one. He's a particularly aggressive player when he's motivated so expect to see the former Canuck rearguard take a few physical liberties and his teammates to follow suit.
By the Numbers
All-time win percentage for the Ducks in home openers (12-8-0).
Straight 50-win seasons for the Ducks, the first team since the Canucks (2010.11 to 2011.12) to do so.
Straight home opening wins for the Ducks. (Last loss Jan. 25, 2013 – 0-5 to VAN).
Times, in five meetings, the Canucks and Ducks went past regulation last season.
Starts for Frederik Andersen against the Canucks last season, the only Ducks goalie to face Vancouver.
Time the Ducks have faced the Canucks in their home opener (2-2-0), including once at the Yoyogi Arena in Tokyo, Japan.