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Heading East

Canucks are in Montreal for the first of six eastern road games

by Daniel Fung @daniel_fung / Canucks Freelance Writer

Nine games into the season and the memories of a perfect 4-0-0 start have quickly vanished thanks to a five-game winless. Things won't get much easier for the Canucks over the next couple of weeks as they head east for a stretch of six games in nine days.

Long pilgrimages out east are an annual occurrence for the Canucks and that first big trip can be a tone setter for the rest of the campaign.

Besides, ideally, a few wins, some other things the Canucks and their fans will be anticipating on this trip include the return-to-health of Chris Tanev, Alex Burrows and Derek Dorsett, the season debut of Nikita Tryamkin, and the long-awaited first goal for Loui Eriksson.

Here's what the Canucks can look forward to, as far their opponents are concerned:

Montreal Canadiens - November 2

Last Visit: 4-3 OT loss - November 16, 2015

Last 5 Visits: 1-3-1

There's nothing quite like starting off a tough trip with the toughest test up front. The Habs became an instant Stanley Cup contender with the return of a healthy Carey Price to their lineup and while they traded away a dynamic star defenceman in P.K. Subban, they remain a dynamite offensive team thanks to the additions of stud blue-liner Shea Weber and enigmatic Russian forward Alexander Radulov.

It's hard to spot a weakness from goaltender on out on this year's edition of the Habs although the same thing was said of that team last year before the Canucks emphatically ended Montreal's season-opening nine-game win streak which seemed to send them on a downward spiral that would lead to an early summer. The Canucks will look to stun the Habs again and snap their nine-game regulation unbeaten streak.

Ottawa Senators - November 3

Last Visit: 3-2 loss - November 12, 2015

Last 5 Visits: 3-1-1

On paper the Sens are hardly the toughest test for the Canucks on this trip. Beyond Erik Karlson, their list of top-tier superstars is limited. But they can do some damage if you're not prepared to play or even if you are, as the Canucks learned the hard way last week. Goaltending has arguably been the Sens' shakiest position but that didn't stop them from blanking the Canucks.

More shots are definitely in order for the Canucks in a game that could feel like a must-win especially if things go south in Montreal the night before. Look for a big game from a couple of players making homecomings - Ottawa-native Erik Gudbranson and Ben Hutton, who hails from nearby Brockville.

Toronto Maple Leafs - November 5

Last Visit: 2-4 loss - November 14, 2016

Last 5 Visits: 2-3-0

Is there a bigger spotlight than Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada in the Centre of the Universe? The Canucks have been on this stage before but the hype is even greater with the Maple Leafs actually boasting a team worth paying attention to with the additions of young stars led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, all three of whom will be introduced to a Canucks audience for the first time. While the newcomers have certainly shown they are loaded with goal-scoring ability, blown leads have been a recurring theme for the young Leafs.

This game has the potential to provide plenty of fireworks if the Canucks can find a way to dial up their scoring touch and take advantage of some shaky netminding at the other end. Last year's visit to Toronto - a 4-2 loss for the road team - featured a combined 85 shots between the teams. Look for the homecoming tour to continue as well with Sudbury's Brendan Gaunce, who played high school hockey with the Markham Marauders, and London's Bo Horvat, a former player for the pee wee Toronto Red Wings, playing in front of their family and friends.

New York Islanders - November 7

Last Visit: 2-1 OT win - January 17, 2016

Last 5 Visits: 4-0-1

The Islanders didn't finish with 100 points last season by fluke so there might not be a better time to face them than in the early stages of the season while they're still trying to find their groove. Free agent acquisition Andrew Ladd, coming off a 25-goal season, has had a rough start with his new team. Maybe playing on the less-than-stellar ice surface at the Barclays Center has something to do with that. The Isles are also dealing with some goaltender controversy with rumours swirling that Jaroslav Halak is being shopped.

Another player to look out for is Coquitlam-native Mathew Barzal. The Burnaby Winter Club alum hasn't been an every day player so far for Coach Jack Capuano but should be fired up if he gets a chance to suit up against his hometown team assuming he's still on the roster by the time the Canucks visit.

New York Rangers - November 8

Last Visit: 3-2 OT loss - January 19, 2016

Last 5 Visits: 2-2-1

While most eyes on this night will be glued to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, the focus at Madison Square Garden for the Canucks will be on a Rangers club that has seen their offence get off to a red hot start even if the bottom-line results still leave something to be desired. Three new faces in particular have been a big part of the Rangers' improved offence - Mika Zibanejad, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey.

Alain Vigneault's teams have never been afraid to push the tempo on offence, especially when they can rely on an all-world goaltender to shut the door. Expect Coach V's team to turn up the heat on offence indoors while the heat is getting turned up other ways on the outside.

Detroit Red Wings - November 10

Last Visit: 4-3 SO win - December 18, 2015

Last 5 Visits: 2-3-0

It's the end of a road trip and the end of an era when the Canucks make their way to Hockeytown to play at the Joe Louis Arena for the final time. With the Red Wings moving into new digs next season, this will be the final game the Canucks play in a building that has traditionally been a very tough place for them to pick up victories. That will be the case again for this final trip. The Red Wings have been on a roll since dropping their first two games of the season thanks to some stellar netminder from Petr Mrazek.

The departures of Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Richards have not hampered Detroit's offence at all either. Newcomers Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen have fit in quite nicely, while defenceman Mike Green appears to be enjoying a career renaissance. If the Canucks want to end the trip on a winning note, getting a big night between the pipes from Michigan-native Ryan Miller will be a must.

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