The Vancouver Canucks go in search of their season-high fifth straight home win tonight when they host the San Jose Sharks in a critical Pacific Division clash at Rogers Arena.
If there's one thing the Canucks can't be too happy about lately, it's their killer instinct. Last Thursday in Buffalo, they squandered a chance to win a game that was tied in the third period. On Sunday, they took their foot off the gas pedal and squandered a 5-2 third period lead against the Blues before ultimately salvaging a 6-5 shootout win. Having their killer instinct will be vital in the bigger picture tonight. They begin the day with a five point lead over the Sharks in the standings and a win would deal a huge blow to San Jose's chances of catching them before the end of the regular season.
The Canucks did not make any transactions at yesterday's trade deadline involving roster players but there will be at least one lineup change for tonight's game after Alex Biega was reassigned to Utica (AHL). Alex Edler joined the team for yesterday's practice and could be a possibility to make his return tonight. Coach Desjardins has hinted that he would like to have goaltender Jacob Markstrom get a start in one of the upcoming games and that is expected to happen tonight.
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 a February to forget that saw them post a 3-8-2 record, including a dreadful 0-6-2 mark on home ice which featured a loss in the Stadium Series game at Levis Stadium to the Kings, the Sharks are hoping to make March memorable for all the right reasons. They certainly got off on the right foot last night with a convincing 4-0 win over Montreal backstopped by a 20-save performance by Alex Stalock with the game-winner scored by deadline day acquisition Ben Smith, formerly of the Blackhawks. The four- goal outburst was certainly a welcome sight for the Sharks who had been having some trouble filling the net recently. Prior to last night's victory, they had been held to two-or-fewer goals in four of their previous five contests.
One player who is certainly heating up for the Sharks is Patrick Marleau, who brings a three-game goal streak into tonight's contest and has goals in four of his last five games overall. All of the damage that Marleau has inflicted on opponents during his three-game goal streak has come on the power play. The man-advantage has been one of the Sharks' strengths all season long – they begin the day tied with the fifth best power play percentage – and has been dangerous in the season series as well. They've connected two times on 12 opportunities in the season series, including going 1-for-4 in the last head-to-head meeting on February 5 which ended in a 5-1 victory for the Sharks.
Keys to the Game
Make a Mark. After spending the bulk of the season in the AHL, you can bet Jacob Markstrom is chomping at the bit to finally show what he can do at the NHL level. He'll want to be a difference-maker tonight and make it a tougher decision for Coach Desjardins moving forward in terms of the goaltending rotation.
Beware the mental lapses. The Canucks might have had a much easier time getting past the Blues on Sunday had it not been for two stretches where they just seemed lost – the first six minutes of the game, and a seven-minute stretch in the third. Even if they do give up a goal, they need to make sure they don't allow it to snowball into two or three more.
Turn on playoff mode. This game, for all intents and purposes, is a playoff game for the Sharks. They've had recent playoff success against the Canucks and they need to bring that mentality into this contest.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Sharks this season when playing on zero days rest (5-3-0).
Point needed by Henrik Sedin to reach 900 career points.
Goals for Radim Vrbata against the Sharks this season. He has scored a goal in all three head-to-head games.
Swedes who have amassed 900 points in the NHL: Mats Sundin (1349), Daniel Alfredsson (1157), and Nicklas Lidstrom (1142).
Straight wins for the Sharks at Rogers Arena dating back to March 5, 2013 (includes 2 playoff wins).
Game point streak for Henrik Sedin (4-7-11) entering tonight's game, a season-high for the Captain.