The Vancouver Canucks host the San Jose Sharks tonight at Rogers Arena in a critical Pacific Division match-up that could be a potential playoff preview.
If tonight's game does end up being a playoff preview, you'd have to believe the Canucks would be thrilled. Firstly, it means their short-term goal of making the playoffs is successful. Secondly, in all likelihood, it would also mean Vancouver manages to finish the regular season in either the second or third spot in the Pacific Division. The Canucks, as a result of the Flames win over the Sharks last night, currently sit outside the top-three in the Pacific Division and are holding down the final wildcard playoff position.
Vancouver is coming off a gusty come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory over the Jets on Tuesday – a win that evened their record on their current six-game home stand to 2-2-0. They had a team day off yesterday so any potential lineup changes won't be known until the game day skate at the earliest. The one expected change would be between the pipes where Ryan Miller will be back in action after getting Tuesday night off. Miller is 2-0-0 against the Sharks this season and 9-1-1 versus San Jose overall in his career.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
After the Canucks beat the Sharks 3-1 in their last meeting on December 30, Vancouver held a two point lead in the Pacific Division standings over San Jose and had two games in hand. Since then, however, the Sharks have been on a pretty solid run going 8-5-2 despite dropping a 3-1 decision last night in Calgary. It's allowed the Sharks to leapfrog the Canucks into a second place in the Pacific Division with the Flames. San Jose and Calgary each have 61 points, two more than Vancouver, but the Canucks hold three games in hand on both teams.
Part of what has helped the Sharks surge up in the standings has been the strong play of netminder Antti Niemi, who has not suffered a regulation loss since January 10 going 5-0-2 in his last seven starts. Niemi is expected to be back between the pipes tonight after getting last night off. He stopped 16 of 19 shots in his lone game against the Canucks this season back on November 6. This is the third of five meetings between Vancouver and San Jose this season, and the first of two visits that the Sharks will make to Rogers Arena.
Keys to the Game
Take advantage of a tired team. For the second game in a row the Canucks get to face a team that had to play and travel the night before. Vancouver didn't do nearly enough early in their game against the Jets to run them down. Seeing as how the Sharks had a tough night in Calgary, the Canucks will want to make sure they skate hard early on and try and build a quick lead.
Radim goes on a run. He may have lost his top line spot last game but Vrbata has quietly put together a three-game point streak. He's also had the Sharks number this season scoring a goal in both meetings so far this season. The Canucks will look to him to continue leading the way against San Jose.
Make the power play count. The Sharks have one of the league's top power play units but it's let them down in the season series so far against the Canucks where they've got just one goal on eight opportunities. A power play goal could have made the difference in one of the two previous games and would probably make a world of difference tonight.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Sharks this season when playing on zero days rest (4-3-0).
Win percentage for the Canucks when leading after two periods (20-1-2). Vancouver has led after two periods in both games versus San Jose.
Power play enjoyed by the Canucks so far in the season series against the Sharks (Edler scored).
Straight wins at Rogers Arena for the Sharks dating back to March 15, 2013 (five straight wins counting playoffs).
Canucks each riding three-game point streaks: Daniel & Henrik Sedin, Vrbata and Horvat.
Power play goals for Sharks forward Joe Pavelski, tied for most in the league with Alex Ovechkin.