As far as road trips are concerned, the Canucks' six-game swing which wraps up tonight certainly qualifies as a success already with Vancouver posting a record of 3-1-1 through the first five games. On Thursday, the Canucks turned in arguably their best performance of the trip with a 4-2 victory over the Bruins in a game where they weren't forced to endure waves of attack by the opposition offence as they had in the first three games of the trip and, instead, managed to find a way to take over a game that was tied in the final frame. Seeing as how they're playing with house money in a sense, the Canucks should be a confident group as they head into Saturday's clash with the Penguins looking to avenge their 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh back on November 4 at Rogers Arena.
Based on the way the Canucks practiced yesterday, it does not appear any line-up changes are imminent among the skaters. That means that Brandon Sutter, who was thought to perhaps be ready to make his return after missing the last 32 games following sports hernia surgery, will likely not draw in despite taking part in practice on Friday. The only change expected is between the pipes where Ryan Miller will get the call. The Penguins could opt to go with Jeff Zatkoff in net seeing as how they also play Sunday and may want to save Marc-Andre Fleury for the league-leading Capitals. Pittsburgh is coming off a 4-3 win on Thursday against the Flyers in a game that saw Fleury turn aside 29 of 32 shots for the victory.
Puck drop at 9:30 am PT – Live on Sportsnet, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
Back on November 4 when they Penguins made their annual pit stop in Vancouver, there were already rumblings that perhaps then-coach Mike Johnston was on the hot seat. That was when the Penguins were in the midst of a six-game win streak and, by most accounts, had gotten off to a strong start despite the struggles of star forward Sidney Crosby. Just over one month later, former Canuck assistant Johnston would be out and replaced by another former Canuck assistant in Mike Sullivan. The critics of Johnston would suggest he didn't find a way to properly utilize his superstar forwards and perhaps they had a point. In 28 games under Johnston, the Penguins scored 66 goals for an average of 2.36 per game. In the 18 games since Sullivan has been in place, the Penguins have scored 47 goals for an average of 2.61 goals per game.
The biggest difference-maker in that change has been the emergence of Sidney Crosby after his lengthy slump. Crosby has nine goals and 20 points in 17 games played since the coaching change after managing just six goals and 19 points in 28 games prior. Still, it appears the Penguins are trying to transition from a team that is relying solely on their skill guys to do all the work into a team that can generate some offence with some grit. That was likely the impetus behind their recent move of sending the struggling David Perron, known more as a skill player, for rugged winger Carl Hagelin. The Pens are hoping that move might also help shore up their defence which has slipped up a bit since the coaching change. Under Johnston, the Penguins surrendered 65 goals in 28 games played for an average of 2.32 goals against per game. Since Sullivan took over, the Pens' goals against average has jumped to 2.67 goals against per game after allowing 48 goals in 18 games.
Keys to the Game
Daniel builds his lead. Now the most prolific goal scorer in franchise history with 348 and counting, the Canucks expect and need Daniel to continue his ways if they're to make a serious charge for the post-season. Daniel had one of the two Vancouver goals on November 4 against Pittsburgh in their 3-2 loss.
Dictate the pace. Despite facing a very strong offensive team in Boston, the Canucks managed to hold their own and even take over the game in a crucial moment. They'll need to find a way to do that against a Pens' team that bolsters an improved offence of late and is coming off a season-high 45 shot performance against Philadelphia.
Sid shows the way. It will take a little while before the Penguins can convince the league they're Cup contenders again but getting their superstar forward Sidney Crosby feeling like his old self again is a start. Crosby brings a season-high five-game point streak into tonight's tilt and will be looking to add to the goal he has in the season series.
Canucks Gameday Road Report, Presented by Toyota
By the Numbers
Career games for Pittsburgh goalie Jeff Zatkoff against the Canucks.
Combined third period goals scored between the Canucks and Penguins back on November 4 - 2 by each team.
Game for Carl Hagelin against the Canucks this season today. He played three versus Vancouver as a Duck.
Time this season the Canucks will play a game starting earlier than 4 pm PT (1-1-2 in those games).
All-time different coaches in Penguins franchise history, Mike Sullivan being the latest.
Shots per game average for the Penguins, tops in the NHL.