It's always a festive atmosphere whenever the Leafs make their annual visit to Vancouver even if the visitors have virtually nothing to play for as is the case tonight. For the Canucks, however, there is plenty on the line. After falling 4-0 to the Kings on Thursday, they can't afford another setback in the ever-so-tight Pacific Division playoff race. Vancouver begins play today sitting in third place in the division after watching the Flames leapfrog them last night. A loss could potentially leave the Canucks sitting on the edge of the playoff cut-off line by the end of the night.
The good news for the Canucks is that reinforcements are on their way. Among the injured ready to return tonight include Kevin Bieksa, Brad Richardson, Chris Higgins and Yannick Weber. Alex Burrows will be a game-time decision after taking a maintenance day yesterday. The Canucks will not hold a morning skate so lineup updates won't be available until the pre-game warm-up. Eddie Lack will get the start between the pipes.
Puck drop at 4 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 fact the Leafs have four wins in their last 10 games seems to suggest they're not quite as bad as everyone would like to think. But then you see a performance like the one they turned in yesterday and you can understand why Toronto is where they are in the standings. The Leafs looked completely disjointed in their 6-3 loss to the Flames, particularly on the defensive side of the puck. They may as well have hung an 'open for business' sign on the neck of netminder James Reimer with the number of Grade A chances they surrendered. Luckily for Reimer, he'll take a seat tonight as Toronto goes with Jonathan Bernier between the pipes.
Bernier hasn't exactly been stellar this season but he has been the better of the two goaltenders for the Leafs. He's allowed three-or-more goals in four straight starts but is coming off a victory in his last outing. He's gotten a lot of work this season and not just in terms of games played. The Leafs average 33 shots against per game this season, near the top of the league. That alone should have some of the struggling Canucks' scorers salivating. As far as whom to watch for the Leafs on offence, Vancouver will want to pay attention to David Booth. Yes, the same David Booth that had all of 19 points last season with the Canucks. He only has just 12 points this season but more than half of them (5-2-7) have come during his currently-active six-game point streak. Now that's something that Torts would find weird, dude.
Keys to the Game
No passengers allowed. Regardless of where the Leafs in the standings there's no reason for the Canucks not to bring the A-game tonight especially after being embarrassed by the Kings two nights ago. Add that to the fact the Canucks have had trouble beating the so-called lesser teams this season and no one should be taking this game easy.
Feed off Juice. When it comes to heart and soul guys, you won't be able to find a better one than Kevin Bieksa. With the rugged blue-liner making his return tonight, he'll be looking to make an immediate impact and the rest of his teammates would be wise to follow his lead.
Kadri comes ready. The beleaguered Leaf forward's team-imposed suspension comes to an end tonight. If Coach Horachek decides to put him back into the lineup, he'll have a chip on his shoulder and will be looking to make an impact if only to get people to start talking about his play and not his off-ice transgressions.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Canucks in games when held to fewer than 20 shots (3-5-1).
Win percentage for the Canucks without Kevin Bieksa in the lineup (12-9-1).
Win percentage for the Canucks in the game immediately following being shutout. (3-1-0; 14 combined goals scored)
Straight losses for the Canucks against the Leafs dating back to last season. They had won 11 in a row versus Toronto prior to the slump.
Straight home wins for the Canucks over the Leafs dating back to January 10, 2006.
Road wins for the Leafs this season. Only the Sabres have fewer.