The Canucks begin a five-game home stand tonight at Rogers Arena taking on the defending Central Division champion, St. Louis Blues.
After picking up seven of a possible eight points to start off the season, which included capping off a successful SoCal road trip on Tuesday with a 3-0 win over the Kings, the Canucks now get a chance to enjoy the comforts of home for the next week-and-a-half. Although it may be far too early to start talking about the standings, Vancouver's strong start to the season gives them an opportunity on this extended home stand to start creating some distance between them and their competitors in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Despite coming off an impressive victory, the Canucks are expected to make at least one tweak to their line-up with Sven Baertschi coming out in favour of Jared McCann, the latter who was scratched in Tuesday's victory in Los Angeles. The Blues, who lost all three head-to-head meetings against the Canucks last season, are coming off a 4-2 win last night in Edmonton. Former Blue Ryan Miller is expected to start for the Canucks while St. Louis will likely turn to Jake Allen after Brian Elliott went the distance last night.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Vancouver Hockey, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
Despite a successful regular season campaign that saw them capture the Central Division title, for the third season in a row the Blues flamed out in the opening round of the playoffs and that was enough to convince them significant changes needed to be made. The biggest move saw them jettison popular forward T.J. Oshie, who had been a top-five scorer for them in three of the past four seasons, in a trade with Washington that might seem a bit lopsided at first glance. Although the Blues did pick up a promising goaltending prospect in the move, the primary "immediate help" component coming back was Troy Brouwer. Brouwer is coming off back-to-back 20-plus goal and 40-plus point seasons but his offensive upside is certainly not at the same level as Oshie. The main selling factor when it comes to Brouwer, however, is his 78 career playoff games experience, not to mention the Stanley Cup ring he earned in 2010 with Chicago.
Another reason the Blues, who were the fifth-leading scoring team in the NHL last season, were fine with moving on from Oshie was simply because they're loaded with offensive talent. Last season, Tarasenko, Steen, Schwartz, and Backes all finished with higher goal totals and point totals than the departed Oshie. The Blues also had an inkling that highly-touted 19-year-old forward Robby Fabbri would make their opening night roster which he did and promptly scored a goal in his NHL debut. Fabbri, however, is currently out with a concussion. Where the Blues will look quite different from last season is their back end. They bid adieu to veteran blue-liners Barrett Jackman and Zbynek Michalek and, although they were expected to replace those holes with other veteran defencemen, it's actually been two 22-year-old rookies – Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson – that have forced their way into the top-six.
Keys to the Game
Get Vrby going. 18 shots and a handful of posts but, still, no goals or points yet (other than a shootout marker) for Radim Vrbata on the season. Getting last season's leading goal getter on the scoresheet is certainly on the top of the team's to-do list. Vrbata led Vancouver with five points versus St. Louis last season.
Take advantage of the green blue-line. With the Blues potentially dressing two first-year NHLers (Parayko, Edmundson) on defence, as impressive as they have been in the early going, they're still prone to making rookie mistakes. That's an area the Canucks could potentially expose.
Keep that shot first mentality. The Blues are starting to shed the image of being a defensively oriented "Hitchcock style" team. Last season, they out-shot opponents in more than half their games going 33-14-3 in those contests. They've out-shot their opponents in every single game this season as well. A good offence must be a good defence after all.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Shooting percentage for the Canucks against the Blues last season (13 goals on 76 shots).
Straight seasons the Canucks have swept the season series vs the Blues (6 straight wins).
Games on the Blues current trip, their longest road swing of the season (2-1-0 so far).
Straight games with at least a point earned for the Canucks vs the Blues dating back to January 12, 2012 (9-0-2).
Regular season games played by Adam Cracknell as a Blue from 2010.11 to 2013.14.
Minutes and four seconds of consecutive playing time without a goal allowed by Ryan Miller.