If there's one thing we should have learned by now about the Canucks this season, it's that they don't go through prolonged slumps. So, with the prospect of a three-game losing streak facing them, Vancouver did what we should have anticipated all along last night bouncing back with a complete team effort in a 4-1 win over St. Louis. The win, coupled with the Kings' loss to Chicago, allowed Vancouver to stretch their lead over ninth-place Los Angeles to five points and inch closer to officially booking their ticket back to the playoffs.
The Canucks will look to avoid a three-game losing streak of a more personal nature tonight. They come into this contest having suffered back-to-back regulation losses to the Preds already this season. They have never lost three in a row in regulation to Nashville in franchise history. Coach Desjardins did not confirm a starting goaltender for tonight's contest following yesterday's win. It would not be a stretch to see the Canucks go with Jacob Markstrom over Eddie Lack with this being the final time Vancouver plays on zero days rest this season.
Puck drop at 5 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
Whether they care to admit it or not, you'd have to believe there were those within the Predators organization that were deeply concerned when the team suffered through a 2-8-1 stretch from February 26 to March 17 after being the model of consistency in the first three-quarters of the season. The good news for them is that they seemed to have turned things around lately. Prior to Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Flames, the Preds had won four in a row. They can credit much of that to improved play of Pekka Rinne. At the height of their struggles, the Vezina Trophy candidate was routinely allowing three-or-more goals a night. In 10 starts since March 7, he's only allowed more than two goals in a game on two occasions. The Canucks are well aware of how good Rinne is as he seems to save his best for his outings against Vancouver. In two games this season, he's only allowed a pair of goals on 57 combined shots.
The Canucks have also seen the Predators offence at their best this season as well as Nashville has out-scored Vancouver by a combined 8-2 so far in the season series. Rookie phenom Filip Forsberg, considered a leading candidate for the Calder Trophy this season, has three goals and four points so far in the season series. He's been a big part of the recent Nashville resurgence as well amassing two goals and four points during their four-game win streak. Mike Ribeiro has also been hot lately as he brings an active four-game point streak (2-4-6) into tonight's contest while blue-liner Roman Josi has four points (1-3-4) in his last four outings. Vancouver might also want to pay close attention to Colin Wilson who leads the season series with five points (3-2-5) although they probably don't have to worry too much considering Wilson has just two points in his last 17 outings. Vancouver could catch a break with Nashville potentially missing both stud defenceman Shea Weber and sniper James Neal. Weber has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury while Neal hasn't played since March 12 with an upper-body injury. Nashville has already clinched a playoff berth so they won't be in a hurry to rush back any injured bodies.
Keys to the Game
Don't let Forsberg get loose. Not only has the Nashville super rookie notched three goals so far in the season series, he also leads all players with a whopping 12 shots on a goal. The Canucks can't afford to give him the time and space that they've allowed him to have in the first two outings. Vancouver ought to review Calgary's game tape and see how they managed to prevent any shots from Forsberg in Nashville's last outing.
Discipline is key. The Canucks have done a good job in recent games of staying out of the penalty box. They'll need to continue doing that night. Nashville has enjoyed 10 power plays so far in the season series and has cashed in three times. That's too many goals and definitely way too many opportunities to allow them.
Don't let up. The Preds may have clinched a playoff berth but they have bigger accomplishments in mind such as locking up the Central Division and potentially challenging for the Presidents' Trophy. Now is not the time for them to take a breather especially against a still-desperate opponent.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Canucks when playing on zero days rest (3-6-2).
Win percentage for the Predators against Pacific Division teams (12-6-2). This is their final game against the Pacific.
Assists needed by Henrik Sedin to become the 52nd player in NHL history to record 700 career assists.
Points, in 19 games, for Mike Santorelli since rejoining Nashville. He has 2 points in his last 3 games.
Points needed by the Predators to match their most successful season in franchise history (110 – 2006.07). They would need to win four of their final five games to tie the mark.
Points for Nashville's Filip Forsberg this season, one behind the league lead held by Calgary's Gaudreau. He already has set new franchise records for goals, assists and points by a rookie.