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Game 76: Canucks at Blues (03.30.15)

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks look to avoid their longest winless skid in over two months when they kick off their final road trip of the regular season tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

It was less than a week ago that we were trumpeting in this space the fact the Canucks couldn't have picked a better time to string together three straight victories. It's amazing how quickly things can turn. Vancouver, after back-to-back losses to Colorado and Dallas to end their home stand, is in danger of dropping three straight for the first time since January 8 to 13 if they can't find a way to right the ship against St. Louis. In fact, both teams in tonight's contest will be looking to get back on the winning track as the Blues come into this contest with just one win in their last five outings.

While the Canucks will be focused on taking care of business against the Blues, they'll undoubtedly have an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard as well with both the Kings and Flames also in action. Vancouver will end this night in second place in the Pacific Division regardless of what happens elsewhere around the NHL but they could get caught in points by Calgary if they aren't able to come up with anything in their contest. Eddie Lack is expected to get the call between the pipes.

Puck drop at 5 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.

Regular Season Record

43-27-5 46-22-7

2014.15 Season Series

2-0-0 0-1-1

All-time Series

71-88-20 90-62-27

Last 10 games

6-3-1 5-3-2

Last 10 head-to-head

8-0-2 2-5-3
 

Scouting Report

The Blues are just days away from officially earning that 'x' beside their name signifying the clinching of a playoff spot but they'd probably prefer to charge to the finish line as opposed to stumbling their way there. St. Louis is just 1-2-2 in their last five outings and they're finding that offence is harder to come by lately. The Blues have tallied just 10 combined goals over their last five outings and have been held to two-or-fewer tallies in three of those outings, including their 4-2 loss to Columbus on Saturday. The problem isn't so much their top forwards not producing but the fact they haven't gotten much in the way of contribution from the secondary scorers to put them over the top. Alex Steen has been among the hottest Blues with 11 points in his last 11 outings (5-6-11) while Vladimir Tarasenko has also been consistent with 11 points (5-6-11) in his last 13 games. But the Blues would love to see more from the likes of Patrik Berglund (two points in last 12 games) and Jori Lehtera (one assist in last five games), players who were big contributors early on in the season but have tailed off significantly. They'll need some of those guys to step up in particular if Steen, who left Saturday's game against Columbus with an injury, can't go tonight.

The Blues' recent offensive struggles have forced their two netminders to be on their A-game just about every night out although both goaltenders would admit they haven't been at their peak performance. Jake Allen has been the better of the two lately helping the Blues earn at least a point in each of his last four starts (2-0-2). Brian Elliott's play lately, however, is a bit more concerning. He recently got a vote of confidence from head coach Ken Hitchcock who anointed him as the playoff starter but his cold streak certainly has some wondering about whether that's the right decision to make. In his last two starts, he's given up seven goals on just 32 combined shots. Keeping pucks out of their own net has been a real problem for the Blues in the season series against the Canucks as they've allowed nine combined goals over two games played. Elliott will get the start tonight – his first in the season series.

Keys to the Game

Bring on the hit parade. The last time the Canucks and Blues met, they combined for 75 hits with 41 of those credited to Vancouver. The Canucks also seemed to be at their best early on against the Stars on Saturday when they didn't shy away from banging around bodies. When you're slumping like Vancouver has been recently, there's no better way to get into a game than to turn up the physical play.

Keep feeding off the power play. At certain points in time a momentum-killer, the resurgent power play has become a huge game changer for Vancouver in their last five games clicking six times on 13 opportunities. The power play is the one area that hasn't been red hot in the season series against the Blues scoring just once on five opportunities.

Elliott rebounds. No Blue is facing more heat these days than goalie Brian Elliott who is coming off a couple of shaky outings. The man who is slated to be the playoff starter for St. Louis can silence the critics, including some doubters in his own locker room, with a strong performance tonight in a game that should have a playoff feel to it.


By the Numbers

.632

Win percentage for the Blues against Pacific Division teams (12-4-3). VAN is the only team they have yet to beat.

3

Games played by Olli Jokinen with the Blues. He has sat out nine of 12 games since joining St. Louis.

4

Straight games without a regulation loss at the Scottrade Center for the Canucks dating back to January 12, 2012 (3-0-1).

5

Straight wins for the Canucks against the Blues dating back to October 25, 2013.

5

Players tied for the season series lead with three points each: Vrbata, Higgins, Bonino, Backes & Oshie.

6

Times the Blues have reached the 100-point mark in franchise history. They are one point shy of making it seven times.

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