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Road to Redemption

...Canucks close out November with a season-high six game road trip

by Daniel Fung @daniel_fung / Canucks freelance writer

It hasn't been a November to remember yet for the Canucks, but there's plenty of time to change that as they hit the road again to conclude a month that will have seen them play 10 of 15 games away from home by the time it's all said and done. That might not be a bad thing considering the Canucks, who are 3-5-1 so far this month, are an impressive 6-3-0 on the road.

Aside from six very tough opponents upcoming, there are plenty of other things the Canucks have to look forward to on this trip. The prospective respective returns of Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher to the lineup, milestone games for Loui Eriksson and Alex Edler, and perhaps a milestone point for Daniel Sedin could all in the cards on this six-game trek. 

Here is a look at the opponents on the trip: 

Philadelphia Flyers - November 21

Last Visit: 4-5 SOL - January 12, 2017

Last 5 Visits: 2-2-1

Two teams looking to bump slumps will collide when the Canucks kick off their road trip in Philadelphia. The Flyers have been a tough team to get a read on this season but consistency seems to be their biggest problem. They've only managed to string together consecutive wins on one occasion, and now find themselves riding a four-game winless skid. They had the Midas touch on offence in the early going of the season, but have had some issues finding the back of the net in recent outings. New number one netminder Brian Elliott has had shining moments but he still has yet to manage to get his game back to where it was a couple of seasons ago in St. Louis before his forgettable run last year in Calgary. Facing a struggling opponent, this game is set up perfectly for the Canucks to begin their trip on a high note if they can take advantage. 

Who to watch: Nolan Patrick 

So far in his young career, Nolan Patrick has found the NHL is not an easy league to play in. The highly-touted offensively gifted forward, who was the second overall pick from this past summer's NHL Draft, hasn't quite found instant point-producing success but for now he's just happy to just be back in the lineup after recently missing nine games recovering from a concussion. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has been largely happy with how his rookie has performed and has tried not to put too much pressure on the shoulders of the youngster, but with the Flyers struggling lately to score goals they will be looking for Patrick to take a step forward in his production.  

Pittsburgh Penguins - November 22

Last Visit: 0-4 L - February 14, 2017

Last 5 Visits: 1-3-1 

Facing the defending Stanley Cup champions on the second night of back-to-back games would normally be the NHL's version of a lamb being led to slaughter. But perhaps the situation isn't quite as dire as that. The Penguins are indeed a very formidable foe but they haven't been firing on all cylinders lately. Since a strong 7-3-1 start, Pittsburgh has won just four of 11 games and that includes dropping a 4-2 decision back on November 4 against the Canucks. That being said, the Penguins could have easily taken the first head-to-head meeting with a little bit of puck luck and had Superman not donned the No. 6 jersey for the Canucks that night. This won't be an easy game by any means for the Canucks, especially against a well-rested Penguins team that will be looking to bounce back from a loss in their last outing. The key for the Canucks will be to take advantage of an awful Penguins penalty kill, which is among the league's worst.   

Who to watch: Sidney Crosby 

Although analytic pundits will tell you the plus-minus is a flawed statistic, it still doesn't hide the fact Sidney Crosby's minus-12 sticks out like a sore thumb especially for a player whose offensive output would generally hide such blemishes. What that means is so far Crosby's production at even-strength hasn't been at the level he's used to, and for whatever reason teams have found a way to turn the tables on him as well including the Canucks who scored three times at even-strength with Crosby on the ice on November 4. Knowing Crosby, he'll find his game sooner rather than later. The Canucks still need to pay attention to No. 87 and make sure this isn't the night he gets his revenge. 

New Jersey Devils - November 24

Last Visit: 2-3 L - December 6, 2016

Last 5 Visits: 2-2-1 

The Devils were flying high when they rolled into Vancouver on November 1 and blanked the Canucks 2-0 at Rogers Arena. Since then, however, it's been a largely forgettable month of November as they've come crashing down to earth quite a bit. They have routinely given up three-or-more goals a game throughout this season but the only difference is while they were able to out-score their defensive deficiencies earlier in the year, they've found it much more difficult to put up goals these days. Cory Schneider stole two points when he posted a 37-save shutout against the Canucks. The Devils may need a repeat performance in order to win this game. The good news for them is recent head-to-head history is on their side. The Devils have won six straight against the Canucks, and haven't lost a head-to-head game since 2014. 

Who to watch: Jesper Bratt 

While Nico Hischier, this past summer's first overall pick in the NHL Draft, is the big name rookie in town, the unheralded 19-year-old Jesper Bratt has been making a case that perhaps there's competition for best among the first-year players in New Jersey. The Devils' sixth-round pick from the previous summer, Bratt has shown that his offensive prowess playing in Sweden's second tier league can translate into success at the NHL level. He didn't put up any points against the Canucks in their 2-0 win back on November 1 but was noticeable recording five shots. Unlike Hischier, Bratt appears to have a more all-around game and is a fixture on both the power play and on the penalty kill for the Devils. 

New York Rangers - November 26

Last Visit: 5-3 W - November 8, 2017

Last 5 Visits: 2-2-1   

When the Rangers stumbled out of the gate with a 1-5-2 record, there were many calling for the head of bench boss Alain Vigneault. Luckily for the Rangers they didn't panic and their patience was rewarded with a six-game win streak from October 31 to November 11. The consensus on the Rangers, however, is they're still very much a work-in-progress and they're falling into a familiar old trap of being over-reliant on having goalie Henrik Lundqvist bail them out on a regular basis. This game could feature some offensive fireworks if both teams continue to struggle on the defensive aspects of their game. Last year's season series was a high-scoring one as the teams combined for 17 goals over two games. One of the Canucks' most memorable wins came at Madison Square Garden - a 5-3 victory at the tail end of what had been a winless road trip up to that point on the strength of a pair of Alex Burrows markers. 

Who to watch: Pavel Buchnevich 

Last season, Pavel Buchnevich gave fans in the Big Apple just a small taste of his offensive potential when he recorded 20 points in 41 games played. This season, the 22-year-old Russian has pretty much been 'the guy.' Buchnevich has been a fixture on the Rangers' top line alongside Kreider and Zibanejad and, if he hasn't already by the time the Canucks get to town, he's on his way to shattering his goal and point totals from a season ago. Described as speedy and skilled with good playmaking abilities and a goal scorer's touch, Buchnevich appears to be the real deal and will be a big part of the Rangers' future as they begin to transition from older stars like Rick Nash and Michael Grabner. 


New York Islanders - November 28

Last Visit: 2-4 L - November 7, 2016

Last 5 Visits: 4-1-0 

The landscape for the Islanders could change in a big way this off-season but for the time being their fans are enjoying a resurgent season. The Islanders, who only missed the playoffs by a single point last year, are off to a fantastic start this season despite playing in a very tough Metropolitan Division. They've done so thanks to a stellar home record as well as owning one of the most potent offences in the league, something that was a trademark of theirs last season as well. Rookie Mathew Barzal and newcomer Jordan Eberle have been very welcome additions to their lineup and have made their impact felt in the goal-scoring department right away. Their biggest problem is they are giving up nearly as many goals as they are scoring. Neither Thomas Greiss nor Jaroslav Halak, who have been splitting goaltending duties for the most part this season, have posted spectacular statistics by any means. The only difference between the two appears to be in the win column with Greiss earning the lion's share of the victories so far.  

Who to watch: Mathew Barzal

There is a lot of talk these days about whether the Islanders will be able to hang on to franchise superstar John Tavares past this season. But if Tavares does bolt in the off-season as some people speculate, the Isles can at least turn around and say they've got another young potential star in the making in Mathew Barzal. The Coquitlam-native is in his first full NHL season and already looks like a seasoned veteran producing at nearly a point-per-game pace through the first month-and-a-half of his career. You can bet Barzal has this game circled on his calendar knowing playing the team from his home province will mean plenty of eyes on him from friends and family back home. 

Nashville Predators - November 30

Last Visit: 2-4 L - February 7, 2017

Last 5 Visits: 1-2-2 

It's usually the mark of a good team when average is not good enough. When the Predators got off to an unspectacular 5-5-2 start, the term 'Stanley Cup hangover' was thrown around. Since that time however, they've started to look a lot more like the team that came oh-so-close to capturing the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup last spring. Nashville's keys to success, much like it has been the past few seasons, is tied to their play from the back end. They rely on strong goaltending from Pekka Rinne, which they've received for the most part this season, and they count on their defence to drive their offence, which is clearly the case again this year. The Canucks will need to find a way to neutralize the three-headed beast of defencemen P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm, who have made it a habit of putting up big points against the opposition. The Canucks stand a much better chance of escaping Music City with at least a point if they can do that. Vancouver lost both games they played in Nashville last season and haven't recorded a victory there since March 2015 losing three in a row overall. 

Who to watch: Kyle Turris 

The Predators have every intention of making it back to the Stanley Cup Final this spring and the addition of Kyle Turris, formerly the Senators' top-line centre, puts them in prime position to do just that. A three-time 20-goal scorer, Turris not only replaces the goal scoring the Preds lost when James Neal was claimed by the expansion Golden Knights but gives Nashville perhaps the best one-two punch at the centre ice position in the Western Conference behind Ryan Johansen. Turris made an immediate impact netting two points in his debut game with the Preds. He'll face the Canucks for the third time this season in this contest, looking to add to the assist he recorded while as a Senator at Rogers Arena back in October.

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