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Game 35: Canucks at Panthers (12.20.15)

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
UPDATE:

The Canucks look to build on Friday's win in Detroit when they take on Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers in a Sunday afternoon matinee.

It may be exaggerating things somewhat if we were to label Friday's win in Detroit as 'the Motown miracle' although given the circumstances the Canucks found themselves in heading into that contest, it's not too much of a stretch. Not only had they lost three in a row to begin their six-game road trip, they were also without one of their leading scorers in Henrik Sedin but somehow they managed to pull off an improbable 4-3 shootout win against the Red Wings despite squandering leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the process. The Panthers won't provide an easier challenge by any means as the Canucks look to win consecutive road games for the first time since early October. Florida has won three in a row and has just three losses in its last dozen games (9-3-0) dating back to November 27.

The Canucks did not skate on Saturday and, with the early start time on Sunday, won't hold a game day skate either so no line-up clues can be gleaned until the pre-game warm-up. Although past precedent suggests Ryan Miller gets the start on Sunday, the Canucks might consider giving Jacob Markstrom a chance to face his old club. Markstrom was in the line-up when the Canucks visited Florida less than two weeks after he was acquired by the Canucks back in March 2014 but was parked on the bench in favour of Eddie Lack. Roberto Luongo is the expected starter for the Panthers.

Puck drop at 1 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.

Regular Season Record

12-14-8 17-12-4

2015.16 Season Series

0-0-0 0-0-0

All-Time Series

13-6-8 8-10-9

Last 10 games

3-6-1 7-3-0

Last 10 head-to-head

6-2-2 4-4-2
 

Scouting Report

The Panthers served notice to the league last season that they were serious about making it back into the playoff picture when they swung a deal to acquire Jaromir Jagr in late February. Although they came up short in their bid to make the post-season last spring, the fact they re-signed Jagr in the off-season was a sign that their goal remained the same this year. The Cats essentially find themselves in the same place they were for most of last season – hovering in and around that final wildcard spot in the East. They did make a few off-season changes letting veterans like Tomas Kopecky, Scott Upshall, and Brad Boyes walk. The latter was the biggest loss as he was a top-five scorer for them netting 38 points but they've managed to more than adequately replace his contribution with the acquisition of Reilly Smith from Boston via trade. Smith, who is two seasons removed from a 20-goal and 50-point campaign, had 40 points last season with the Bruins and currently leads the Panthers with 11 goals. Florida has also seen a couple of youngsters in Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri make big strides this season and step up their production. Both are on their way to career-seasons which has helped the Panthers survive injuries to likes of Aleksander Barkov earlier this season and currently to Nick Bjugstad, as well as a somewhat slow start for Jonathan Huberdeau.

The fact the Panthers have so many up-and-coming players making contributions is part of the reason why rumours have come out recently that they would not mind moving one of those pieces in order to land a veteran goal scorer to help with their playoff push. But as much as there has been talk about the offence, this team is built from netminding out and Roberto Luongo has been a big part of ensuring the Cats are competitive night in and night out. Luongo's numbers across the board are not only his best since returning to South Florida but also his best since the 2010.11 season. Canucks fans will certainly remember what the former Vancouver netminder accomplished that year. Luongo is coming off his second shutout of the season after blanking the Hurricanes 2-0 on Friday and has allowed two-or-fewer goals in eight of his last 10 outings.

Keys to the Game

Second to none. The trio of Horvat, Baertschi and Vrbata certainly looked like they had some chemistry going generating a pair of goals in Detroit on Friday. They may be the go-to-guys now with Vancouver's top line currently in flux. Another productive day from those three would be a great early holiday gift for the Canucks.

Get to Lou. The Canucks are used to the days when Roberto Luongo was consistently one of the best netminders in the league. That said the Canucks have seen him off his game plenty of times as well so they'll need to do those little things like getting in his grill and invading his space.

Ride Reilly. No Panther is hotter these days than Reilly Smith who brings a four-game goal streak into Sunday's game and with five goals in his last six outings overall. In fact, his line with Pirri and Trocheck may be one of the most underrated second lines in the league. They'll want to stay red hot.


Canucks Gameday Road Report, Presented by Toyota

By the Numbers

3

Points for Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau (2-1-3) in last year's season series leading all players.

+10

Goal differential for the Panthers over their last three games (12 goals for, 2 goals against).

20

Times the Panthers have opened the scoring this season (15-3-2).

27.6

Average shots on goal per game by the Panthers, among the fewest in the league.

43

Games played by Jacob Markstrom as a member of the Florida Panthers from 2010.11 to 2013.14.

66

Minutes and 22 seconds without a goal allowed by the Panthers in consecutive game play.

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