The stretch drive towards the playoffs begins in earnest tonight when the Canucks return from the All-Star break to host John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The All-Star break could not have come at a better time for the Canucks who seemed in desperate need for an opportunity to relax, regroup and re-energize especially given the way they went into the break – a 2-1 home-ice loss to Nashville where, for the second game in a row, they failed to seize the third period in a game that was theirs for the taking. If erasing the sour taste from just before the All-Star break wasn't motivation enough, the return of John Tortorella ought to be. Tortorella, who presided over a short-lived, never dull but largely unsuccessful era in Canucks history, returns to Vancouver for the first time with his new team, the Blue Jackets, in tow.
The eight-day layoff also allowed the Canucks to heal up virtually all their bumps and bruises. In fact if both Henrik Sedin and Dan Hamhuis are able to return to the line-up tonight it would mark the first time all season the Canucks are completely healthy. Based on yesterday's lines at practice, however, it would appear that while Henrik will be returning, Hamhuis will have to wait at least one more game before making his comeback. The Canucks knocked off the Blue Jackets by a 5-3 score back on November 10.
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
Keys to the Game
Finish the job. The Canucks could have easily went into the All-Star break on a three-game win streak had they had better third period performances in their last two outings. If it's another tight game late tonight, they have to be the ones to take over.
The fans get into it. The Torts era may be long in the past but this is the first chance for the Rogers Arena faithful to serenade the former Vancouver head coach. Don't expect them to pass that opportunity up. It should make for an energetic building and something for the team to feed off.
Don't cross the boss. You know this game has extra meaning for Torts whether he cares to admit it or not. The new bench boss will be expecting his team to have a much better effort than they did on November 10 when they blew a third period lead to the Canucks.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Blue Jackets since they traded away Ryan Johansen (4-5-2).
Broken ribs sustained by Tortorella in a practice incident before the All-Star break forcing him to miss 3 games.
Game for the Canucks in the last 12 days dating back to January 24.
Combined points (4-7-11) for the line of the Sedins and Hansen against Columbus back on November 10.
Minutes & 12 seconds - average ice-time for Seth Jones since he joined the Blue Jackets. He averaged 19:38 with Nashville prior to the trade.
Shots recorded by Columbus against the Canucks on November 10, still their single game season-high.
- The Jackets are looking to bounce back from a 5-1 loss to Edmonton on Tuesday. Matt Calvert had the lone goal in the loss.
- Since Tortorella took over as head coach, Columbus has averaged 2.64 goals per game which would put them in the top-half of the league.
- Red hot Columbus forwards lately include Brandon Saad (3 goals in last 3 games), Scott Hartnell (3-game point streak), Boone Jenner (4 points in last 3 games), Cam Atkinson (4 goals and 5 points in last 3 games), and Brandon Dubinsky (5 points in last 3 games).
- Only 14 goals have come from defencemen this season for the Blue Jackets. The arrival of Seth Jones via trade from Nashville is supposed to help with that.
- Goalie Joonas Korpisalo has started the last four in a row in place of the injured Sergei Bobrovsky.
- Columbus has allowed a league-high 3.19 goals against per game.