The Canucks begin the back half of their six-game road swing tonight still in search of their first victory of the trip when they take on the Detroit Red Wings.
Vancouverites know that at this time of year when it rains it pours. Unfortunately, the Canucks are living proof of that. Not only are they mired in their worst slump of the season – a stretch that has seen them lose three regulation games in a row for the first time and have just two wins in their last 10 outings (2-6-2) – they now have to deal with the loss of one of their most dependable offensive contributors in Henrik Sedin, who left last night's loss with a lower-body injury. The loss of their captain couldn't have come at a worse time for a team that has been shutout in two of their last three games, and in four of their last nine outings dating back to November 30.
While the Canucks limp into Detroit for tonight's tilt, the same can't be said of the Red Wings who, despite coming off a 2-1 loss to Buffalo on Monday, have been on quite a tear lately going unbeaten in regulation in 13 straight prior to Monday's loss. The Red Wings already own a victory over the Canucks this season after beating Vancouver 3-2 in overtime back on October 24. Ryan Miller will get the start in net for the Canucks, while Jimmy Howard will counter for the Red Wings.
Puck drop at 4:30 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 only thing worse than an taking an extended break when you're on a roll is going on a long break when your last outing was a loss. In the Red Wings' case, they're feeling it from both sides in a way. Their last outing was a 2-1 loss to the Sabres on Monday but, prior to that, had been on a major roll going unbeaten in regulation in 13 straight (8-0-5). Not surprisingly, the beginning of the streak coincided with the return of Pavel Datsyuk to the line-up. Datsyuk missed the first month of the season dealing with an ankle injury. The timing of Datsyuk's return couldn't have been better with the Red Wings recently losing Teemu Pulkkinen to injury. Pulkkinen was off to a strong start this season and had already eclipsed his previous career-highs in goals and points at the time of his injury. Detroit's hope is that Datsyuk's return can help spark a couple of other Red Wings to break out of slumps – namely Darren Helm (8 points in 27 games this season) and Brad Richards (7 points in 18 games this season). If the Datsyuk line is able to click, it gives the Red Wings three potent offensive lines to go with the Larkin-Zetterberg-Abdelkader trio and the Nyquist-Sheahan-Tatar combo.
The Red Wings' recent success hasn't just come thanks to the offence. In fact, you can make the case that it's been their defence that has been the biggest reason for their success. In their last 17 outings dating back to November 10, Detroit has allowed more than three goals on just two occasions. The Red Wings are among one of the toughest teams to score on when it comes to five-on-five play giving up just 45 goals this season – the fifth fewest in the league. A lot of that credit has to go to their netminding tandem of Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek, which is arguably the best one-two goaltending punch in the league. New head coach Jeff Blashill has not been shy to use either netminder. Mrazek, in fact, has actually seen more action than incumbent starter Howard and actually has a better save percentage (.925 vs .921) compared to the veteran Howard although the latter owns a better goals-against-average (2.29 vs 2.37). Howard will get the call tonight against the Canucks.
Keys to the Game
The centres of attention. Already missing Brandon Sutter, the Canucks' depth down the middle is definitely going to be tested tonight without captain and top-line centre, Henrik Sedin. That means struggling youngsters like Jared McCann (10-game point drought) and Bo Horvat (11-game point drought) need to find a way to get their groove back and in a hurry.
Win the third. As good as the Red Wings are, third periods have been a sore point. They've not only blown their fair share of third period leads this season (their .625 win percentage when leading after two is second worse only to Vancouver) but they've been out-scored 31-21 in final frames.
Use those fresh legs. The Canucks are playing their second game in 24 hours, while the Red Wings are seeing action for the first time in four days. Fatigue may be a factor for Vancouver but certainly not for Detroit. They need to come out of the gate flying and try the tire the Canucks out by forcing them to skate in a fast-paced game.
Canucks Gameday Road Report, Presented by Toyota
By the Numbers
Regulation loss for Detroit in their last 10 home outings (6-1-3). That loss came in their last game.
Straight losses for the Canucks at the Joe Louis Arena (5 straight without regulation win).
Time this season the Canucks will play on zero days rest. They are 2-1-2 so far this season.
3rd period goals scored by Detroit this season, 3rd fewest in the league. (They scored 2 vs VAN back on October 24).
Consecutive games played by Canucks' captain Henrik Sedin. That streak is likely to end tonight.
All-time wins for the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings moved to the JLA in December 1979.