|Team Record: 26-15-7
Last Game: 2-7 L at Edmonton (APR.27.13)
Season Series: 0-2-1
Last Meeting: 3-2 W (APR.01.13)
|Team Record: 25-16-7 |
Last Game: 2-3 L at Los Angeles (APR.27.13)
Season Series: 3-0-0
Last Meeting: 2-3 L (APR.01.13)
The road to the Stanley Cup begins in earnest tonight for the Vancouver Canucks (series tied 0-0) when they host the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Arena in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series.What You Need to Know
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- The Canucks didn't exactly end their regular season on a high note dropping a 7-2 decision in Edmonton on Saturday night. They closed out their regular season losing back-to-back games. They have not lost more than two in a row since a four-game winless skid from March 3 to 10.
- The Sharks, like the Canucks, also dropped their last two games to end the regular season. Their 3-2 loss to the Kings in their season finale is what got them this series against the Canucks. Had they won, they would have earned themselves a date with the St. Louis Blues instead.
- The Sharks dominated the Canucks in the season series winning all three head-to-head meetings. The closest the Canucks came to knocking off the Sharks was a 3-2 shootout loss on home ice back on March 5.
- In 185 minutes of hockey played between the Canucks and Sharks this season, the Sharks played with a lead for 123:29. The Canucks did not have a single lead at any point in their three-game season series.
- The Canucks had never lost their opening game of the playoffs under head coach Alain Vigneault until last year when they fell 4-2 to the Kings last year in their playoff opener.
- Based on how the Canucks skated at practice the last two days, it appears the healthy scratches for Game 1 – in addition to all the recent AHL call-ups – will be F Steven Pinizzotto, F Tom Sestito, D Cam Barker, D Derek Joslin and D Keith Ballard.
- The Canucks are hoping that G Cory Schneider will be good to go for tonight's contest after sitting out the last two regular season games with an undisclosed injury. Schneider declared himself ready following yesterday's practice but head coach Alain Vigneault indicated the final decision would not be made until the morning of game day.
- Sharks workhorse G Antti Niemi, who started 43 of his team's 48 games this season, will be the starter tonight for San Jose and for the entirety of the series barring unforeseen circumstances. This will be the third time in four years that he will have met the Canucks in the post-season.
- It remains to be seen whether G Roberto Luongo will factor into this series but, if he does, he could be on his way towards setting yet another franchise playoff record. He enters this series sitting just two wins shy of tying first place on the franchise's all-time playoff wins list. Kirk McLean holds that record with 34 playoff wins in a Canucks uniform.
- This entire first round series will be broadcasted on TSN which is a good sign for the Canucks. Vancouver went 5-0-1 when appearing on TSN during the regular season.
Tonight's game faces off at 7:30 pm PT and can be seen on TSN. Fans in the United States can watch the game on the NBC Sports Network. Listen live on The TEAM 1040 Sports Radio or online at teamradio.ca.
Those away from a TV or radio can follow @CanucksGame on Twitter for live in-game play-by-play.
Keys to the Game
The Canucks Win If...
- They forget how the regular season ended. Saturday's regular season finale in Edmonton, even though it was a meaningless game, still left a bad taste in the Canucks' mouths but they can't have that embarrassing performance still in the back of their minds tonight. They'll need to wipe the slate clean and be solely focused on making sure they don't let home ice advantage slip away from them after the first game as it did last year against the Kings.
- They don't keep falling behind. It's pretty much impossible to win games when you don't play with a lead like the Canucks did during their regular season series against the Sharks. During that three-game set, Vancouver did not hold a lead for even a single second of play. If they want to beat the Sharks tonight, they'll need to score first and – ideally – score often.
- Schneider is ready and able to go. Cory Schneider hopes to be back between the pipes for the first time in over a week and while he might still be feeling the effects of his undisclosed body injury not to mention having butterflies in his stomach in anticipation of making his first playoff start as the clear-cut number one goalie, the Canucks will need him to quickly get back to playing at the level he was at just prior to his injury if he does in fact return to action tonight.
The Sharks Win If...
- They come ready to steal home ice. The Sharks know that at some point in this series if they want to win it they will need to pick up a victory on the road. There's no better time to do it than tonight and instantly put some pressure on the Canucks in a series where they're the favoured.
- They forget about their road struggles. The road was not a kind place for the Sharks during the regular season as they only managed to go 8-14-2 away from the Shark Tank. In fact, their eight wins were tied with the Kings for fewest among all Western Conference playoff-bound teams. That said, the playoffs are a whole new story and the Sharks can't let their inability to win on the road during the regular season affect them as they begin this series with back-to-back games at Rogers Arena.
- Torres makes an impact...literally. No player on the Sharks should be more fired up to play this game than one-time Canuck Raffi Torres. Not only is the heavy-hitting Torres facing his former mates – a team he nearly rejoined at the trade deadline – but he's also making his return to the playoffs for the first time since last year's Western Conference quarterfinal series with Phoenix when he laid out Chicago's Marian Hossa and subsequently earned a 21-game suspension. That suspension forced him to watch from the sidelines as the Coyotes marched all the way to the Western Conference Final so he ought to be chomping at the bit to get another shot at being in the post-season.
Ones to Watch
|DANIEL SEDIN |
The Canucks' fate in the 2012 playoffs might have been considerably different had Daniel Sedin been available to them for the entirety of their series against the Kings. Daniel was forced to miss the first three games of that series – his team lost all three of those contests – and while he managed to record two assists in two games after his return, his team was unable to bounce back entirely falling four games to one to the eventual Cup champs.
Daniel, and the rest of the Canucks, will hope that his presence in the lineup this year will yield a much different result for his team. For him to have an impact, however, he'll have to dig himself out of his recent offensive slump. The 32-year-old former Art Ross Trophy winner ended the regular season with just four points (2-2-4) in his final 11 games played.
Daniel would love to see a repeat of their 2011 series against the Sharks this year both in terms of his team's outcome as well as his own personal statistics. He had two goals and six points in five games during that series. In this year's regular season series, he managed just one assist in three games played.
|SCOTT GOMEZ |
Scott Gomez's offensive production over the last three seasons are certainly an indication that his game has taken a giant leap backwards but one thing the Sharks are hoping they can count on from him is that he can remember how to turn up his game come playoff time.
If there's one thing Gomez has made a career out of it, it's playing at his best hockey when the games matter the most. In 140 career playoff games, Gomez has notched 29 goals and 99 points while he's been to three Stanley Cup Finals winning twice. His last significant playoff run came in 2010 with the Habs when he helped Montreal advance all the way to the Eastern Conference Final before they eventually lost to the Flyers.
Gomez, who ended the regular season on a two-game assist streak, had one goal and two points in three games played against the Canucks during the regular season. His next playoff point will be the 100th in his career. Coming into this post-season, only 81 players in NHL history have amassed 100-or-more career playoff points.
Game Notes on Canucks.com are written by Daniel Fung. Follow him on Twitter @daniel_fung or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.