The Vancouver Canucks begin a five-game home stand tonight with a battle against familiar foe Ryan Kesler and the league-leading Anaheim Ducks.
'Predictably unpredictable' might be the best way to describe the Canucks these days. How else can you explain a two-game road trip that began with a shootout loss to one of the worst teams in the league followed by a victory against one of the league's most desperate teams? Where the Canucks want to unpredictable is in their start as they will want to deviate from the script that sees them fall behind early because spotting the best team in the league with a lead is probably not going to be conducive to success – especially since that team has already beaten Vancouver in three of four meetings this season.
Despite coming off a win, the Canucks could make changes to their lineup – some by choice and some by necessity. Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins and Yannick Weber were absent from yesterday's practice, but the Canucks did welcome back Chris Tanev and Brad Richardson to the session. Tanev will be a game-day decision while Richardson remains doubtful. Ronalds Kenins, who was a healthy scratch against the Sharks, is also a possibility to return to the lineup as he skated yesterday on a unit with Bo Horvat and Jannik Hansen.
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
The Ducks come into this contest following a rare loss after dropping a 5-2 decision to the Penguins on Friday but had been on quite a roll prior to that. Before the loss to Pittsburgh, the Ducks had won four in a row and seven of their previous eight. The Ducks might have been able to make it five straight wins in a row had it not been for a rare off-night for Frederik Andersen, who allowed four goals on 20 shots before the Ducks surrendered the final tally into an empty net. During the four-game win streak, the Ducks held their opponent to two-or-fewer goals in every single outing. John Gibson was responsible for three of those four victories and, in fact, has received the lion's share of the starts lately with Andersen only recently returning from a neck injury that kept him out nearly a month. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Ducks go back to Gibson tonight as he has been very solid since being recalled from the AHL.
Of course, you can't talk about the Ducks and not talk about their potent offence. Among one of the top-scoring teams in the league, the Ducks bolstered their offensive depth in and around the trade deadline by adding the likes of Jiri Sekac, Tomas Fleishmann and James Wisniewski. They're hoping those additions, or anyone else for that matter, can help boost their oddly-stagnant power play. The Ducks have struck just once in the man-advantage in their last dozen games going a combined 1-for-21 during that stretch. Anaheim, however, hasn't exactly drawn many penalties lately. In that aforementioned 12-game stretch, they've had one-or-fewer power play in six of those outings. They've had plenty of power plays to work with against the Canucks so far in the season series, however, connecting on two of 11 opportunities over the four games.
Keys to the Game
Carry the momentum. The Canucks are probably feeling pretty good about themselves after Saturday's impressive come-from-behind victory. What they won't want to do, as they have been guilty of at times, is follow up a strong performance with a listless one. Motivation shouldn't be an issue against one of the league's top teams in the Ducks.
Save some time. Not everyone's a fan of Daylight Saving Time but maybe it can help the Canucks. Now that they're playing an hour ahead, perhaps they can skip the part of the game where they give up the first two goals and just pretend they're in battle back mode to start the game.
Don't take the foot off the gas. The Canucks are a resilient team and the Ducks know that. Vancouver has battled back from deficits in two of the four head-to-head games against Anaheim and forced overtime on three occasions. The Ducks will want to do what they did last meeting which is strike first and keep pushing for that next goal.
By the Numbers
Straight games the Canucks have spotted their opponent a 2-0 lead.
Game point streak for Radim Vrbata (3-3-6) entering play tonight. He has goals in two straight games.
Straight games without a regulation loss at Rogers Arena for the Ducks (6-0-2).
Straight games without a regulation loss for the Ducks against the Canucks (9-0-2).
Minutes and 38 seconds of consecutive playing time against the Ducks without a goal scored by the Canucks.
Career goals for Ducks forward Ryan Kesler entering play tonight, 182 of which came in a Vancouver uniform.