The Canucks close out their seven-game home stand tonight with a visit from the red hot Florida Panthers and old friend, Roberto Luongo.
A visit from the Panthers usually involves plenty of intrigue just based on the sheer number of players on both sides who get a chance to face former teammates. There is no shortage of former Canucks on the Panthers once again as they make their annual visit but the intrigue in the Panthers this time around has more to do with their play as opposed to their roster make-up. Florida comes into tonight's contest as the Atlantic Division leader and riding a franchise-record 12-game win streak – a streak they extended last night with a 2-1 win in Edmonton. Vancouver, meanwhile, is looking to rebound from a 3-2 overtime loss to the Lightning on Saturday that dropped their record on their home stand to 3-2-1. The Canucks were the fourth victim for the Panthers on their current win streak as Florida outlasted Vancouver 5-4 in a shootout back on December 20.
Newcomer Emerson Etem will make his Canucks debut tonight while rookie Jared McCann is expected return to the line-up in place of Adam Cracknell. One former Panther who will not figure into tonight's game is Chris Higgins. The Canucks announced yesterday they are exploring trade options for the veteran winger. Jacob Markstrom, another former Panther who has never started a game against his former team but is on record for the December 20 shootout loss, will make his eighth consecutive start tonight going up against the most decorated goaltender in Canucks franchise history, Roberto Luongo.
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
No team has been hotter over the past month than the Panthers and it's not hard to figure what their secret to success is. When you can routinely hold your opponents to two goals or less, you put yourself in a great position to win every time out no matter how strong your offence is. During the Panthers run of 12 wins in a row, only one team managed to put more than two goals up on the scoreboard against them and that happened to be the Canucks when the two clashed back on December 20. That game also saw another rare occurrence as the Canucks managed to click twice on the power play – something the Panthers have only had happen to them in five games this season and just once in their last 22 outings.
What the Canucks learned that night, and what other teams throughout this Panthers' streak have seen on occasion as well, is that while the Cats aren't lauded for their offensive ability they certainly can put the pucks into the net when they need to. In fact, their offence may be underrated considering the fact they average 2.64 goals per game which puts them in the top half of the league – more than supposed offensively-gifted clubs including the Kings, Lightning, Red Wings, and Penguins. 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr has found the fountain of youth and has been the offensive leader for the Panthers as he has a good chance at finishing as his team's points leader for the first time since 2013.14 when he led the Devils in scoring. The Panthers' top line, which consists of Jagr alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, has been on fire lately. They have combined for seven goals and 14 points over the last four games.
Keys to the Game
History comes early. Daniel Sedin sits just two goals shy of tying Markus Naslund (346) for the franchise lead in goals. With the Canucks off on another long trip after tonight, perhaps he'll be motivated to try and equal or make history tonight before the team hits the road. (Daniel is the only active NHLer to score on Luongo at Rogers Arena, and had a two-goal game the last time the Canucks beat the Panthers at Rogers Arena on Oct. 11, 2010)
Start strong. Newcomer Emerson Etem is set to make his Canucks debut tonight. After a tough stint with the Rangers, he'll want to make a strong first impression in Vancouver. A goal would be a nice way to go. He is goal-less this season and hasn't scored in 20 straight games (27 straight regular season games) dating back to last season's playoffs when he was a Duck.
The old guy keeps producing. Jaromir Jagr is just over a month away from turning 44 but he's playing like someone 20 years his junior. He's been especially red hot during this 12-game win streak of the Cats amassing six goals and 10 points. He's a guy the Canucks need to make sure they don't let out of their sights tonight.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Time Jaromir Jagr will play in Vancouver as a Panther (Last visit – November 25, 2014 as a New Jersey Devil).
Game goal streak for Bo Horvat, a new career-high (three 2-game goal streaks during his rookie season).
Panthers headed to the All-Star game: Jaromir Jagr, Aaron Ekblad, Roberto Luongo, and Coach Gerard Gallant.
Time Roberto Luongo will face the Canucks since the trade (2-1-1).
Time the Panthers will play on zero days rest this season (4-1-1; 3 wins in a row).
Shots surrendered by the Canucks against the Panthers on Dec. 20. Only one Florida skater failed to record a shot that night.