The Vancouver Canucks close out their five-game home stand tonight and will seek a third straight victory when they host Ryan Johansen and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rogers Arena.
The buzz for tonight's game might not be quite as big compared to the four previous games on the Canucks' current home stand but the points on the line are just as important. Picking up points at a crucial time is just what the Canucks have managed to do throughout this home stand as they have earned six of a possible eight points so far. It's allowed them to strengthen their grasp on second place in the Pacific Division although their lead on the third-place Kings is still just two points beginning play today.
Vancouver did not take to the ice yesterday so any potential lineup news will have to wait until Thursday morning. All eyes figure to be on Zack Kassian, who was scratched from Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Flyers with a reported back injury. If he is in fact ready to go tonight, it could be an interesting decision for Coach Desjardins on if he chooses to tinker with his winning lineup from Tuesday in order to work the power forward back in.
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 Blue Jackets may be just days away from being officially eliminated from the playoff race but don't tell them that because they seem intent on battling to the bitter end. They're winners of five of their last seven outings and also bring a four-game road win streak into tonight's contest. A win at Rogers Arena – something they haven't done in over five years – would set a new season-high for consecutive road victories. It would be tough to call them a spoiler only because their wins haven't come in meaningful games. Only one of their last five victories has come against a team (Detroit) that currently occupies a playoff spot.
What their games lack in significance, they've made up for in entertainment – at least if you equate good hockey with high-scoring hockey. In their last nine outings, the Blue Jackets have scored three-or-more goals on seven occasions. On the flip side, the exact same thing can be said about their goals against as they've allowed three-or-more goals seven times over those last nine outings. Columbus has done a lot of their offensive damage with the man-advantage. Of the 24 goals they've scored in their last nine games, one-third have come on the man-advantage where they've gone 8-for-26 (30.8 percent) over that stretch. Conversely, though, other teams have burned them when they've been shorthanded. Columbus has allowed at least one power play goal in nine straight games killing off just 31 of 46 opposition power plays (67.4 percent). The Canucks, despite beating the Blue Jackets 5-0 in their first meeting of the season back on November 28, did not capitalize on two man-advantage opportunities on that night.
Keys to the Game
Keep attacking on the rush. It feels like quite some time since we've seen the Canucks attack with such zeal on the rush especially from their top line as they did in the third period of the win over the Flyers. Against a Blue Jackets team that has had trouble keeping the puck out, this is the night to get aggressive on the attack.
The power play opens the floodgates. Even a slumping power play like Vancouver's has to be licking their chops at the prospect of adding to Columbus' penalty kill woes. The Blue Jackets have given up a power play goal in nine straight games. The Canucks absolutely have to extend that streak to 10 games instead of their own futility streak which currently sits at four games.
Hartnell keeps feeling young. 32-year-old veteran Scott Hartnell has not only found the fountain of youth since joining new 20-year-old linemates Alex Wennberg and Marko Dano but his scoring touch as well. He has five goals and six points in his last five outings playing mostly with the primarily with the two rookies. He'll be looking to continue his fine run.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Canucks against the Eastern Conference (21-9-1). Tonight is their last game against East.
Point needed by Radim Vrbata to reach 50 on the season. It would be the 5th time in his career he has reached that mark.
Regulation loss for the Canucks against the Blue Jackets in their last 17 head-to-head meetings (14-1-2).
Straight games the Canucks have outshot their opponents (first time since 3 straight from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3).
Points, all assists, for Nick Bonino against the Blue Jackets back on November 28.
Game home win streak for the Canucks against the Blue Jackets dating back to January 5, 2010.