The Canucks look to remain undefeated in the New Year when they host Max Domi and the Arizona Coyotes tonight at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks did not start off 2016 with a fireworks show but, nevertheless, they kicked off the New Year on a positive note squeaking out a 2-1 shootout win over the Ducks on Friday night. As satisfying as it must have been for the Canucks to earn bragging rights over former teammates Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa, the victory was even more important from a playoff push perspective as it prevented Anaheim from leapfrogging them in the tight Pacific Division standings. Tonight will be yet another important contest against a divisional opponent in the Coyotes, a team the Canucks are looking at up in the standings as they begin play today trailing Arizona by one point with the Coyotes also holding a game in hand.
Based on the way the Canucks lined up at practice yesterday, it appears rookie Jared McCann will return at the expense of veteran Brandon Prust, who suffered a lower body injury after getting tangled with Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler on Friday and is officially questionable for tonight's tilt. With Ryan Miller still on the shelf, Jacob Markstrom will get his fifth consecutive start. Arizona's Louis Domingue, who was called up just before Christmas from the AHL with Mike Smith sidelined, has started the last two games in a row for the Coyotes and appears to be Coach Dave Tippett’s new go-to-guy. Domingue, who nearly bolted to Europe during the off-season before ultimately choosing to stay in the Coyotes organization, made a brief appearance at Rogers Arena last season on April 9 when he relieved Smith in a 5-0 Coyotes loss. He made seven saves on eight shots that night surrendering a power play goal to Dan Hamhuis.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
Usually when you lose your starting netminder to injury it's not a good thing. In the Coyotes case, they've not only survived the loss of Mike Smith but they've thrived. At the time Smith left the line-up to undergo core muscle surgery – an injury that has him projected to be out until February – the Coyotes were mired in their worst slump of the season having lost five in a row in regulation. In their last 10 games, they're 5-2-3 and for that they owe a lot of their success to AHL call-up Louis Domingue. The 23-year-old wasn't expected to be the go-to-guy during Smith's absence but he appears to have wrestled the number one job for the time being away from Anders Lindback, who started the season strong but has endured his fair share of struggles since then. Domingue has earned the Coyotes at least a point in every start he has made this season (3-0-2) with his two regulation losses on record coming in games where he entered in relief of Lindback.
Domingue hasn't been a one-man show by any means. The Coyotes' offence has found a way to step their game up in the absence of Smith as well. During their five-game swoon leading up to Smith's departure from the line-up, the Coyotes managed to score just 10 combined goals for an average of 2.00 goals per game. In their 10 games since, they've scored a combined 32 goals for an average of 3.20 goals per game. The Canucks will want to pay attention to the usual suspects of Max Domi, Mikkel Boedker, Anthony Duclair, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but they'll also need to be aware of 39-year-old Shane Doan who has had a recent resurgence. The Coyotes captain, who had just 14 goals and 36 points last season, already has 13 goals and 19 points this season. He has seven goals and eight points over his last six outings, which included a hat-trick performance on December 29 against the Chicago Blackhawks on December 29 – just the second of his NHL career.
Keys to the Game
What can PP2 do? Based on yesterday's practice, not only will rookie Jared McCann return to the line-up but he'll be part of a new-look second unit power play which also features Linden Vey and Bo Horvat up front. Vancouver has gone nine straight games without a power play marker so this new unit will be tasked to turn things around.
Watch Arizona's back end. As much attention, and deservedly so, has been given to the likes of super rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair this season, what drives the Coyotes' offence is their back end led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Vancouver needs to get into the shooting lanes and make sure they don't give Arizona's D-men any easy paths to the net.
Win the races. If the Coyotes scouted the Canucks' game on Friday against the Ducks, they would have seen Anaheim winning a lot of races to loose pucks and preventing breakout opportunities and extended zone times by Vancouver as a result. Arizona has a speedy enough team to do the same.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Coyotes against the Pacific Division, best within the division (7-1-2).
Points each for Luca Sbisa (0-2-2) and Arizona's Antoine Vermette (0-2-2) in the season series, tied for the overall lead.
Straight wins at Rogers Arena for the Canucks over the Coyotes entering play tonight (5-1-0 in last six).
Straight wins for the Canucks against the Coyotes entering play tonight (4-0-1 in last five).
Goals scored by Coyotes defencemen this season (10 by Ekman-Larsson). Vancouver has 11 (6 by Edler).
Career goals for Arizona's Shane Doan, most in franchise history. He surpassed Dale Hawerchuk (379) on New Year's Eve for the franchise lead.