The big reunion isn't supposed to happen until Thursday when the Canucks host the much-anticipated return of Roberto Luongo with the Panthers. Vancouver, however, seems to have gotten a jump on the reunion storyline – at least internally. Despite coming off one of their best overall efforts of the season in a 4-1 win over the Red Wings on Saturday, the Canucks appear intent to shuffle up their lines for tonight's contest with the biggest move featuring the return of Alex Burrows back onto the top line with the Sedin twins. The trickle-down effect will see Radim Vrbata and his team-leading 16 goals move down to play with the struggling second line alongside Chris Higgins and Nick Bonino, while Jannik Hansen will move to the fourth line to take the spot vacated by Burrows alongside Bo Horvat and Derek Dorsett. Regardless of what the line combinations are, the Canucks know they'll need to come out with the same effort as they did two nights ago if they want to take two points away from the Islanders – a team that for many years was an after-thought but this season has taken the league by storm.
The Islanders enter play today sitting tied for top spot in the Metropolitan Division but they are no doubt lamenting the fact that they don't begin the day sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference. That's where they would have been had they not dropped a 5-2 decision in Edmonton on Sunday night in a game where team captain John Tavares accused his group of being slow and outworked. The Isles won't want to repeat their performance from two nights ago but they will want to repeat their performance from the last time they visited Rogers Arena back on March 10 – specifically the third period of that game when they scored seven times en route to a 7-4 victory. The man who gave up six of those seven goals against the Isles, Eddie Lack, will get a chance to seek a little vengeance tonight as he makes his first start since December 17. Lack will most likely go up against Jaroslav Halak, the goalie who was part of the Ryan Miller trade last season. Halak, who has started the last four games in a row for the Islanders since returning from a lower-body injury, appeared in three games against the Canucks last season posting a 1-1-1 record with his lone win coming as a member of the Washington Capitals. Halak was actually traded by the Blues to the Sabres in the Miller deal but only served as back-up for one game with Buffalo before he was flipped to Washington. He was dealt to Long Island at the conclusion of last season and ultimately signed a contract extension with the Islanders.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Keys to the Game
Party like it's 2009. It was almost six years ago in February 2009 when then-Canucks coach Alain Vigneault played a hunch by moving Alex Burrows to play alongside the Sedin twins. That would be the genesis of one of the best lines in the NHL for several years. Can they repeat the magic starting tonight? Time will tell.
Start and stay strong. Fast starts haven't been a problem for the Canucks lately. In fact, they've opened the scoring in six straight games. But the Isles boast the league's best win percentage (.750) when allowing the first goal. It means the Canucks can't just rely on a good start to get them through this game (although their last game against the Isles should have taught them that).
Show off the brand new back end. A big part of the Isles success this year can be attributed to the acquisitions of ex-Blackhawk Nick Leddy and ex-Bruin Johnny Boychuk. In particular, the two have greatly bolstered the offence from the back end by combining for 10 goals and 36 points. The Isles have a record of 6-2-1 when either Leddy or Boychuk score.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Canucks this season when being out-shot (7-6-2). They've been out-shot in four straight games.
Personal win percentage for Ryan Miller in his last eight starts against the Isles (6-1-1). All of those starts came with Buffalo.
Save percentage for Ryan Miller in his last six starts (190 saves on 200 shots).
Straight games with a goal for Radim Vrbata, tied for his season-high streak and one shy of tying a career-high streak.
Games played by ex-Canuck Michael Grabner this season with the Isles. He is expected to play tonight for the first time since December 13.
Average shots on goal per game by the Isles this season – second most in the NHL. They've out-shot their opponent in 27 of 39 games this season.