The Canucks look to close out their four-game home stand with a second straight win tonight when they host Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers.
Two nights ago, inspired by the presence of arguably the greatest line in team history – the West Coast Express, the Canucks broke out of their slump in a big way exploding for five goals to snap a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Sabres. They'll be looking for the same kind of inspiration tonight playing in the presence of the most successful coach in franchise history, Alain Vigneault, even though said coach will provide the opposition tonight. Coach V returns tonight with a Rangers club that has been struggling of late with just two wins in their last seven outings (2-4-1) despite earning a 4-1 victory on Sunday in their most recent game against Ottawa.
Vancouver did not skate yesterday so any potential line-up changes won't be known until the morning skate at the earliest. One player who definitely will not play tonight is rookie Jake Virtanen, who has missed the last four games with a hip injury and was assigned on a conditioning stint to Utica (AHL) yesterday. Considering the Canucks turned in one of their better performances in weeks on Monday night, don't expect too many tweaks to the line-up.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
The Rangers were one of the most dominant teams at both ends of the ice a season ago en route to capturing the Presidents' Trophy and so far this season they've picked up where they left off for the most part. Their goals for are in the top-10 of the league, while they've surrendered the fewest goals against per average among all teams allowing just 2.00 per game. It's not a shock that they're still a defensive powerhouse considering they employ one of the league's best netminders in Henrik Lundqvist, who is once again putting up Vezina Trophy-worthy numbers. Back-up Antti Raanta, who came over from the Blackhawks to replace the departed Cam Talbot, has posted even stronger numbers than King Henrik albeit in a smaller sample size.
The Rangers made very few changes in the off-season which might explain why they're been functioning like a well-oiled machine. Jarrett Stoll was brought in to provide some veteran leadership and defensive help, while 24-year-old former second round pick Oscar Lindberg has earned a full-time job this season and is picking up some of the offensive slack left behind by Martin St. Louis' retirement. Lindberg sits second on the team in goals with 10, and fourth in points with 17. But the Rangers are very much a team that is all about offence by committee rather than just relying on one or two stars to carry them. Last season, they had eight skaters – seven forwards and one defenceman – record 30 or more points with the leading scorer being Rick Nash with 69. They appear on their way to a similar trend this season. So far, 10 skaters have reached double-digit point totals with the top player in that group (Mats Zuccarello – 22 points) holding just a 10-point lead on the three players tied at the bottom of the group (Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller). By comparison, the Canucks have just six players in double-digit point totals with the top of that list (Daniel Sedin – 31 points) holding a 20-point lead on the player at the bottom of that list (Alex Burrows).
Keys to the Game
A balanced attack. For the first time in what seems like ages on Monday, the Canucks received offensive contribution three different lines en route to beating the Sabres. Knowing how stingy the Rangers are defensively, the Canucks will need to have all four lines be part of the attack tonight.
Make those shots count. While the Rangers are one of the stingiest teams in the league when it comes to giving up goals, paradoxically they have one of the highest averages in the league when it comes to shots against per game at 31.2. Based on that, the Canucks should get their fair share of opportunities. They have to make sure they do something with it.
Come out flying. No NHL team has more wins when leading after one period of play than the Rangers with 12. New York knows will want to build a lead as quickly as possible to force the Canucks to play from behind. Last season, the Rangers out-scored the Canucks 4-0 in first periods in their two-game season series.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Win for the Rangers in their last 4 road outings (1-2-1).
Straight home losses for the Canucks against the Rangers. (Last win – November 3, 2009).
Straight games without a regulation loss by the Rangers against the Canucks (5-0-1).
Days since the Canucks last won back-to-back games (Oct. 30 – Nov. 2).
Career regular season games played in by Jannik Hansen after he suits up tonight. Congrats Jannik!
Career regular season games coached by Rangers' coach Alain Vigneault including tonight. He will coach his 1,000th game on Friday in Edmonton.