The Vancouver Canucks look to bounce back from a tough loss on Tuesday with a win tonight over the Arizona Coyotes on throwback night in the desert.
As far as tough nights go, few have been as bad this season for the Canucks as Tuesday. Not only were they soundly defeated 6-2 on home ice by the Sharks, but they also watched many of the teams chasing them in the standings gain ground. Vancouver may have revenge on their minds with a rematch against San Jose on the horizon but they know they can't afford to look past the Coyotes, a team that spent trade deadline day essentially gutting their roster.
The Canucks could get a boost with some returning players tonight as both Alex Burrows and Alex Edler accompanied the team on their two-game road trip. Perhaps the most interesting lineup decision for Coach Desjardins is whether he chooses to put Jacob Markstrom back in right away after a rough season debut that lasted less than eight minutes, or go with Eddie Lack, who has played the majority of the last six games. While a visit to Arizona is rarely a highlight on the hockey calendar, it will take on special meaning for Radim Vrbata as he returns to the recently rechristened Gila River Arena tonight for the first time since departing from the desert.
Puck drop at 6 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
The Coyotes may be adorned in their Kachina style jerseys tonight but unfortunately they won't have the likes of Keith Tkachuk or Jeremy Roenick around. They could certainly use them these days. You'd probably need a program just to figure which players are still with the Coyotes after their fire sale on trade deadline day that saw their top two leading point scorers in defenceman Keith Yandle and forward Antoine Vermette, along with blue-liner Zbynek Michalek, change addresses. Those moves, in the short term, won't help a team that was having difficulties scoring even before those departures. Arizona is averaging just 2.11 goals per game this season – only Buffalo has a worst average – and it's been over a month since they last scored more than three goals in a game going 13 straight outings tallying three-or-fewer. That stretch includes their 4-1 loss to Anaheim in their first post-deadline day game on Tuesday.
The best shot the Coyotes have of snapping their season-high, not to mention franchise record-tying, 10-game losing streak would be if goalie Mike Smith manages to stand on his head. Unfortunately for them that seems like a highly unlikely proposition. Smith has struggled mightily this season posting career-worst numbers across the board and brings a personal nine-game losing streak into this contest. In his lone start against the Canucks back on December 22, he was chased from the net after allowing four goals on 11 shots in the Coyotes' eventual 7-1 loss.
Keys to the Game
Eddie steadies. After giving up 17 goals over their last three games as a team (albeit a few were into empty nets), the Canucks could use a calming influence between the pipes. Eddie was solid in relief on Tuesday and he'll need to be for 60 minutes tonight. He also needs to stop the first shot.
Take nothing for granted. The last time the Canucks thought they had a 'guaranteed win night' they ended up walking out of the First Niagara Center in Buffalo with a 6-3 loss. The Coyotes might look like a pushover on paper but the Canucks have to treat this game like it's a playoff game. The points on the line suggest that it is.
Throwback to a better time. Given the current state of the Coyotes, there isn't much to look forward to when you head to the rink these days for hockey fans in the desert. That being said, throwback nights always bring some buzz into the building and it's a distraction the Coyotes would welcome.
By the Numbers
Goals scored by the Canucks in their last two visits to Arizona.
Game winless streak (0-2-1) for the Canucks at the Gila River Arena dating back to November 5, 2013.
Game losing streak on home ice for the Coyotes. The franchise record is six.
Game winless streak on home ice for the Coyotes. The franchise record is 14.
Times the Canucks have allowed five-or-more goals in a game this season. They are 1-12-0 in those games.
Goals for Oliver Ekman-Larsson this season, most by a Coyotes defenceman since the franchise moved to Arizona.