If ever there was a game that could appropriately demonstrate the 'will over skill' mantra it came yesterday in the Canucks' 5-4 shootout win over the Rangers. Despite an injury-depleted lineup, Vancouver managed to overcome three deficits – not to mention a blown third period lead – to topple one of the top teams in the East and earn their second straight win. As thrilling as that comeback victory was, it's essential for Vancouver to follow-up that up with a similar effort tonight versus a Devils team that should yield them two more critical points.
Vancouver, which begins the day sitting with a one point lead over both the Flames and Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division, has been in the habit of not tweaking their lineup after victories which could mean that Zack Kassian sits for a second straight night. The one expected change will be in net where Eddie Lack is expected to start. Tonight marks the first time that rookie Bo Horvat will play in the building where he was drafted back in 2013, facing the team he could have joined had the Canucks not swung the Schneider deal with the Devils on the clock holding the ninth overall pick.
Puck drop at 4 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
Barring a miraculous late season surge, the next significant event the Devils will be looking forward to is the NHL Draft where they're sure to have a high pick. They certainly seem to be in summer mode already. Prior to their 2-1 shootout win over the lowly Sabres on Tuesday, the Devils had dropped a season-high four straight regulation games. You can hardly blame our old friend Cory Schneider for New Jersey's woes. He's already played in a career-high 49 games this season and has put up some solid numbers although his GAA (2.27) is the highest it has ever been in his career (min. 25 games played).
When your leading scorers – tied between future Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr and Adam Henrique – have just 29 points apiece, you know that goal scoring clearly has been a problem area. New Jersey has averaged just 2.14 goals per game this season, second fewest behind only Buffalo, and they haven't scored more than a single goal in their last four straight outings. They didn't even manage one in their 2-0 loss to the Canucks back on November 25 at Rogers Arena but they also didn't enjoy a power play in that game. Despite being one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, their power play is among the best converting at 19.9 percent albeit only cashing in at 16.9 percent at home.
Keys to the Game
The Bo show rolls on. Don't look now but the hottest Canuck these days is none other than Bo Horvat. It's gotten to the point now where Vancouver is not looking at goals from his line as a bonus but as expected. The rookie will be counted upon to continue his hot streak in the building where his NHL career, in some ways, began.
Don't take anything for granted. The Canucks may be riding high on confidence after last night's gutsy win but the last thing they'll want is to have a letdown against a team they should beat even though they are a bit battered and bruised right now. Vancouver has to come ready to play.
Someone, anyone, please score. The Devils don't care where their offence comes from as long as it comes. Someone's got to produce if they are to have any chance to win tonight. That someone may as well be Scott Gomez, who has had a second lease on his NHL life since rejoining New Jersey. He has the best points-per-game average on the team with .61.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Canucks at the Prudential Center (3-0-0), home of the Devils since 2007.08.
Straight games with a point for Jannik Hansen (1-4-5) entering tonight's game.
Straight games with a point for rookie Bo Horvat (3-2-5) entering tonight's game.
Straight wins for the Canucks over the Devils dating back to December 2, 2009.
Wins this season for ex-Canuck goalie Cory Schneider, tied for his career-high set in 2011.12.
Average age of the Devils active roster. Vancouver's average age is 27.9.