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Game 35: Canucks at Sharks (12.30.14)

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks will close out the 2014 calendar year and their two-game road trip tonight when they battle the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center.

The NHL schedule makers were kind enough to give the Canucks an additional day off over the holiday break. The Canucks, however, seemingly decided that wasn't enough. In their first game back from the break on Sunday, Vancouver was still very much in the giving spirit handing Anaheim scoring chance after scoring chance. Had it not been for the efforts of Ryan Miller who played the role of the Grinch by turning aside 29 of 31 shots, the Canucks could have easily walked away with nothing as opposed to the single point they earned from a 2-1 overtime defeat. They might not be so lucky tonight if they decide to sleepwalk through another contest. San Jose is winless in their last two outings but is looking to remain perfect in the month of December on home ice by posting their ninth straight win in front of their home fans.

There was not a whole lot of cheering at the SAP Center earlier this season when the Sharks stumbled to a 2-4-2 start on home ice but there have been plenty of reasons to celebrate for fans in the Bay Area since then as the Sharks have not tasted defeat in front of their faithful in over a month. The Canucks happen to be one of the last teams to knock off the Sharks on home ice before the start of their stellar run after earning a 3-2 victory in San Jose back on November 6. This is the second of five meetings between the Canucks and Sharks this season. Look for Miller to get the start for the start against tonight for the Canucks. The Sharks, meanwhile, are expected to go with backup Alex Stalock. It will be Stalock's first start since December 11 and his first career start against the Canucks.

Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.

Regular Season Record

20-11-3 19-12-5

2014.15 Season Series

1-0-0 0-1-0

All-time Series

49-38-15 44-44-14
 

Keys to the Game

Miller is the difference-maker. The Canucks won't want a repeat of Sunday where the only reason they managed to steal a point out of Anaheim was mostly due to their netminder's heroics. But knowing how well the Sharks have been playing in recent outings, and even the last time they met when they out-shot Vancouver 36-19, they know they stand a much better chance if their goalie is on top of his game again tonight.

The top line must threaten. Not only did the Canucks only muster a paltry 14 shots last game, only one of those shots came from a member of their top line and it was off the stick of Henrik Sedin, the one player on that top unit that isn't considered a shooter. That line was a big part of the Canucks' win in San Jose back on November 6 combining for a goal and three points. They'll need to be impact players again tonight.

Marleau shows up. The Sharks have managed to pick up wins in recent weeks despite the noticeable absence of Patrick Marleau on the scoresheet. With games becoming tighter, they'll need Marleau – who has no points in six straight games and just one goal in his last 14 outings – to bump the slump. San Jose is 10-5-2 when Marleau records a point.


By the Numbers

.250

Win percentage for the Canucks when held to 20-or-fewer shots (1-2-1). The lone win was against San Jose.

3

Straight games a defenceman has scored for the Canucks – their longest such streak of the season.

4

Straight road games without a win for the Canucks dating back to December 6 (0-2-2).

8

Straight home wins for the Sharks dating back to November 29. Their franchise record is 14.

9

Power play goals for Joe Pavelski this season, tied with Nick Foligno (CBJ) for most in the NHL.

10

Goals this season for Brent Burns, tied for most among defencemen in the NHL.

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