The road to the regular season begins in Kraft Hockeyville when the Canucks play their first of eight pre-season contests facing the San Jose Sharks at the Q Centre.
The last time we saw the Canucks, they were skating off the ice at the Saddledome in Calgary after a disappointing playoff loss to the Flames that put a bitter ending to what was an otherwise positive campaign that saw them reach the 100-point mark for the ninth time in team history. That success wasn't enough to stave off a roster overhaul in the off-season, however. The Canucks will introduce several new faces to the lineup in these next eight tune-up games including the likes of Brandon Sutter, Brandon Prust, and Matt Bartkowski.
Though the off-season began earlier than most wanted in Vancouver, fans were able to take solace in the run to the Calder Cup in the AHL by the Utica Comets this past spring. Many of the key players from the Comets' run including Jacob Markstrom, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, Sven Baertschi, and Frank Corrado figure to be heavily featured during this pre-season alongside some of last year's standout junior players such as Cole Cassels, Jared McCann, and Jake Virtanen, starting tonight in the first of back-to-back tilt against the Sharks.
Puck drop at 7:45 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
2014.15 Season Series
2014.15 Regular Season Record
2nd Pacific 5th Pacific
All-Time Series (Regular Season)
A fellow Pacific Division dweller alongside the Canucks, the Sharks also had to watch the rest of the division around them get stronger during the off-season while they made their own, albeit slightly less high profile, moves of their own to try and combat the changing landscape. The biggest of their moves involved the man behind the bench with former head coach Todd McLellan choosing to bolt from SoCal after seven seasons – his first without a playoff appearance – to join the Oilers. Taking over from McLellan is Pete DeBoer, the former Devils coach who guided New Jersey to the Stanley Cup Final back in 2012. DeBoer, however, has only made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL bench boss and was dismissed mid-season by the Devils last December.
The other notable move the Sharks made came between the pipes after they shipped out longtime starter Antti Niemi and brought in North Vancouver-native Martin Jones, formerly of the Los Angeles Kings. Jones, many believe, has the inside track on the number one job although Alex Stalock, who has been San Jose's back-up for the past two seasons, might have something to say about that. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the moves that haven't been made. Despite on-again, off-again rumours, former captains Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are getting set to start their 19th and 11th seasons with the team, respectively.
Keys to the Game
Embrace Kraft Hockeyville. Pre-season or not, this is one of the unique NHL experiences where you can count on the fans to be fired up. The players will want to respond in kind and put on a good show for a fan base that normally doesn’t get to see their hockey heroes up close.
Make use of opportunities. If last year was any indication, the Canucks won't be in the habit of keeping a large roster around for preseason for an extended period. If a player wants to turn some heads, they'll need to make an impact early on.
Start the fight for the net. The battle for the Sharks' crease figures to be one of the most interesting camp storylines in San Jose. With no clear cut number one yet, it could come down to who has the best showing in preseason. That ought to be motivation enough to have a strong showing for tonight's starter.
By the Numbers
Vancouver's all-time pre-season win percentage (159-153-33).
Times the Canucks have participated in Kraft Hockeyville (Defeated Islanders 2-1 in 2009 in Terrace).
Times the "home" team has won a Kraft Hockeyville game in the previous nine outings.
Goals (6 pts) in 5 games for Vrbata against the Sharks last season.
Times Kraft Hockeyville has been held in Canada including this year. Johnstown, PA will host the inaugural Kraft Hockeyville USA on September 29.
Straight seasons with a playoff appearance for San Jose before they missed last year.