There is never a good time to be in a slump but the Canucks couldn't have picked a worst time to drop back-to-back games. For the second game day in a row on Thursday, not only did the Canucks fail to win but also watched the teams around them in the standings gain ground. The only silver lining in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Coyotes was that they managed to battle back from a two-goal deficit to earn a single point. There won't be many silver linings to speak of tonight, however, if they can't find a way to snap their skid with a win over the Sharks, who sit just four points back of the Canucks to start play today.
The Canucks could have a slightly different-looking lineup tonight. Nick Bonino, who recently returned from a lower-body injury, was absent from practice yesterday while Chris Higgins also left the session early. Ronalds Kenins and Adam Clendening skated as extras yesterday suggesting they could come out in favour of Linden Vey and Frank Corrado, respectively. Look for Eddie Lack, who was easily the best player for the Canucks on Thursday, to get the start.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on CBC, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
The Sharks have had the last few days to relish in Tuesday's 6-2 victory at Rogers Arena although it hasn't exactly been an enjoyable time off as they've watched the teams around them use up their games in hand to continue to pull further away from them in the standings. If the Sharks plan to stay in the playoff race, they'll need to do a lot more of what they managed four nights ago. The Sharks have now out-scored their opponents by a combined 10-2 over their last two outings (albeit two of those goals against the Canucks were of the empty net variety) with eight of those tallies coming at full-strength. That's significant because even though the Sharks are among the top scoring teams in the league overall, they're only middle of the pack when it comes to 5-on-5 goals. If they're able to start becoming a threat at 5-on-5, then other teams can't just take down the Sharks by shutting down their potent power play.
Of course, timing also makes all the difference in the world. Winning certainly becomes much easier if you can build a quick lead like they did on Tuesday when they managed to go up 3-0 before the game was even eight minutes old. Quick starts have not been a problem for them in the season series as they've opened the scoring in three of four head-to-head meetings. Maintaining leads, however, has been a bit of a concern. Even on Tuesday, the Sharks nearly squandered that 3-0 lead they had built up by surrendering a couple of quick second period tallies. If the Sharks can build a lead tonight, they'll be turning to goaltender Antti Niemi to make it stand. Niemi has not won back-to-back games since ending January with three straight victories.
Keys to the Game
Be sharper, much sharper. John Shorthouse put it best on Thursday when, in a particularly exasperating moment in overtime, he suggested the Canucks were doing everything they could to lose after committing their umpteenth turnover. If they insist on handing the puck to the Sharks like that, this game could be over before it even starts.
Win one for Eddie. The only reason the Canucks managed to even salvage a single point out of Thursday's outing was because of the man between the pipes. They owe him a much better effort tonight than what they turned in two nights ago.
Strike early. Given the Canucks penchant for surrendering the first goal lately (they've done so in five in a row and 16 of the last 20) the Sharks absolutely have to take advantage of a team that seems intent on just weathering the storm early on instead of trying to actually score a goal.
By the Numbers
Vancouver's goal differential in the last two games versus San Jose (outscored 11-3).
Win percentage for the Sharks in their last eight games at the SAP Center (1-5-2).
Straight wins at the Shark Tank for the Canucks dating back to November 7, 2013.
Straight games with a point for Canucks forwards Chris Higgins (1-2-3) and Radim Vrbata (1-3-4) entering play tonight.
Straight games with a point for Sharks forwards Patrick Marleau (3-2-5) and Joe Pavelski (1-4-5) entering play tonight.
1st period goals scored by the Sharks in the season series. Vancouver has countered with two.