The Canucks look to snap a two-game winless skid when they host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals tonight for the first and only time this season.
Two games without a win may seem like a modest slump but the last thing the Canucks want is for it to spiral into a lengthy losing streak. With that in mind, coming off losses to the Blues and Oilers on this current five-game home stand, the Canucks will make some notable line-up tweaks as they look to reverse the momentum and score a victory against the Capitals, who put a three-game win streak on the line tonight and have lost just one of five games they've played so far this season.
The Canucks will reunite one of their most productive lines from last season when Radim Vrbata returns to the top unit with the Sedin twins. The Kid Line of Baertschi-Horvat-Virtanen stays intact, while Burrows-Sutter-Hansen forms another trio. Jared McCann, who missed Sunday's game against Edmonton, also returns and will take Adam Cracknell's spot in the line-up. No changes are expected on the blue-line meaning Yannick Weber remains the odd-man out.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet 360, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
By most accounts, the Capitals' first season under new head coach Barry Trotz was a success. They eclipsed the 100-point mark for the eighth time in team history, finished second in the extremely tough Metropolitan Division, and also advanced past the opening round of the playoffs for the first time since 2011.12. That being said, for a team that fancies itself as a Cup contender, good just isn't good enough. It's not a surprise, despite being a team already blessed with offensive talent, that they felt they needed more players capable of putting pucks into the net. After all, in their ill-fated second round series against the Rangers, the Caps were held to two-or-fewer goals in six of the seven games and managed just a single goal in the deciding seventh game. Bringing in T.J. Oshie from the Blues is one of the ways the Caps are hoping they've addressed that issue. In Oshie, the Caps get a bona fide top-line right winger to play alongside Alex Ovechkin – something some would argue they haven't had since the arrival of the 'Great 8' in the U.S. capital unless you count the consistently inconsistent Alex Semin.
Another big name the Capitals brought in was former Los Angeles King, Justin Williams. They're not counting on him to put up huge offensive numbers but his presence, specifically his playoff pedigree, does offset the loss of Troy Brouwer whom they dealt away in the trade to get Oshie. Where the Caps will look different compared to years past is on their back end. Longtime stalwart defenceman Mike Green, one of the premier offensive blue-liners in the league, walked away as a free agent. Despite his injuries woes in recent years, Green was still delivering consistent numbers. The Caps are hoping that John Carlson is now ready to be the go-to-guy when it comes to offence from the blue-line. Carlson had a breakout season last year recording career-highs in goals (12) and points (55). His previous career-high had been 37.
Keys to the Game
Familiarity bumps slumps. One of the Canucks' top lines from last season, the Sedin twins and Vrbata, officially reunites tonight. All three have had their struggles early this season, in particular the point-less Vrbata. Bringing them back together might just be the cure to what ails them individually right now.
Make home an advantage. In three home games so far, the Canucks have held a lead for just 17:16 in total time and not at all since the home opener. They've played catch-up hockey for 81:47 over those three games. Those trends can't continue.
Power on. It's no fluke the Caps have led the NHL in power play percentage for three seasons in a row and are near the top of the pack again this season. The secret to their success is to draw calls and then burn the opposition on the man-advantage – not a bad plan when you've got a sniper like Alex Ovechkin, who has 176 career power play tallies.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Straight game the Canucks will face a team they swept last season (2-0 vs WSH last season).
Russians with 900-or-more career NHL points (S. Fedorov, A. Mogilny, A. Kovalev, A. Ovechkin).
Power play goals by the Canucks in 2 games against the Capitals last season (5-for-9).
Goals needed by Alex Ovechkin (479) to become the highest-scoring Russian NHLer all-time (Sergei Fedorov – 483).
Straight home wins for the Canucks against the Capitals (last loss - Feb. 14, 2001).
The last time, before this season, the Canucks went winless in their first three home games (0-2-1).