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Cali with a side of Calgary

...four games away from home on tap for the Canucks

by Daniel Fung @daniel_fung / Vancouver Canucks

Fresh off a 2-2-1 home stand - which left a little to be desired after ending with a disappointing last-minute loss to the Red Wings on Monday - the Canucks are back on the road where they've looked very good so far this young season winning four of five games away from Rogers Arena.

This four-game trek, early as it is in the season, could end up having major significance down the road. All four contests are against divisional foes and take place in buildings where the Canucks didn't exactly enjoy a whole lot of success in last season. Winning a few more of those divisional games last season - particularly those on the road - could have have meant staying in the playoff race for a lot longer than they did. The players will have that thought in the back of their minds as they make their way through California by way of Calgary.

Here's a look at the four opponents on the trip: 

Calgary Flames - November 7

Last Visit: 1-3 L - January 7, 2017

Last 5 Visits: 1-4-0 

If the Canucks were hoping for an easy opponent to begin their road trip, they won't find it in Calgary. The Flames sit on equal footing with the Canucks in the standings, but they're on a roll as they look to extend their win streak to four games when they host the Canucks. The Flames already have a convincing win on the books over the Canucks this season after beating Vancouver 5-2 at Rogers Arena back on October 14. One thing the Canucks definitely won't want to do is go beyond regulation with the Flames. Five of Calgary's eight victories this season have come in extra time, where they have yet to lose. Vancouver has lost four in a row at the Scotiabank Saddledome, but they have alternated wins and losses overall over their seven meetings with Calgary. 

Who to watch: Sam Bennett 

Three springs ago, he was the vaunted 18-year-old Sam Bennett. These days, he's the 21-year-old who has seemingly lost his way. The former fourth overall pick in 2014, two seasons removed from his rookie campaign where he put up 18 goals, is still sitting with a goose egg in the point column after 14 games played. He's also been moved from the centre position to left wing by the coaching staff in an effort to get him back on track. At some point he's due to break through, and he has been more noticeable lately recording eight combined shots over his last three games. Bennett's hardly alone, however, when it comes to being snake bitten on offence. He's one of eight Flames forwards that have played a minimum of five games and have yet to score a goal this season. The others are Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan, Curtis Lazar, Tanner Glass, Mark Jankowski and Jaromir Jagr. The latter has been out with injury but could make his return to the lineup against the Canucks.  

Anaheim Ducks - November 9

Last Visit: 2-1 W - March 5, 2017

Last 5 Visits: 3-2-0 

Western Conference finalists last spring, the Ducks have struggled to find their game in the new season although they can be excused to a degree for that. Anaheim has been decimated with injuries with a number of key players having missed time including top defencemen in Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm, and key forwards Patrick Eaves, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf. The absence of Getzlaf, in particular, should be music to the Canucks' ears. The Ducks captain had six points in last year's season series to lead all players, albeit the Canucks are also missing their leading point getter from a year ago against the Ducks in Loui Eriksson. The Ducks will be a much more formidable foe as they get healthier but this is the prime opportunity for the Canucks to take advantage of a wounded opponent. Vancouver won two of five meetings against Anaheim last year, but were out-scored 14-9 overall over five games. 

Who to watch: Ryan Miller 

There's no guarantee that Ryan Miller gets the start in this game, but you can bet he's campaigning to face his former teammates. Miller was arguably the Canucks' best player during the Willie Desjardins era but one thing he was used to over the last three years was consistently getting his number called. That hasn't been the case in Anaheim with John Gibson being the entrenched starter although if Miller continues to post the better numbers and the Ducks continue to struggle, it might behoove head coach Randy Carlyle to turn to the veteran to get his team back on track.   

San Jose Sharks - November 11

Last Visit: 1-3 L - April 4, 2017

Last 5 Visits: 3-2-0

Like the Ducks, the Sharks struggled out of the gate to begin the season. Unlike the Ducks, the Sharks seemed to have turned a corner around the time the calendar flipped from October to November. That being said, the Sharks have still yet to fire on all cylinders. Top veterans like Couture, Thornton and Pavelski have done their jobs on the offensive side while netminder Martin Jones, perhaps the biggest key to their success, is off to a good start. However, there are still numerous others the Sharks are waiting for to get into mid-season form and that includes former Canuck Jannik Hansen, who has been a regular healthy scratch this season. It didn't seem to matter who the Sharks had in their lineup when they faced the Canucks last season as they pulled off a perfect sweep winning all five head-to-head meetings including both games played at the Shark Tank. Prior to last season, the Canucks actually had been enjoying quite a run of success in San Jose winning six in a row there. 

Player to watch: Joe Thornton 

At 38 years old, Joe Thornton is showing no signs of slowing down. The former Hart Trophy winner became the 20th player in NHL history to record 1,400 career points earlier this month. He might have reached that mark a lot faster if he had a better showing against the Canucks last season. Despite his team sweeping the season series and out-scoring Vancouver by a whopping 17-5, the future Hall-of-Famer managed just a single assist against the Canucks. He may not be the number one centre anymore in San Jose, but he's still always a threat to put up points especially against the Canucks who he recorded 64 career points against in 59 games played. 

Los Angeles Kings - November 14

Last Visit: 4-3 W - March 4, 2017

Last 5 Visits: 2-1-2 

After finishing out of the playoff picture last spring and cleaning house in the off-season with head coach Darryl Sutter and GM Dean Lombardi both shown the door, the Kings look ready to reclaim the throne under the leadership of new bench boss John Stevens and GM Rob Blake. The moves seem to have revitalized the Kings' core group, which was largely left intact over the summer. Still, the Kings have managed to soar to the top of the division despite missing some of their core players - namely Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and Kyle Clifford - but the slack has been picked up by the likes of free agent acquisition Mike Cammalleri and youngster Adrian Kempe, the latter who could be in the rookie-of-the-year conversation if he keeps up his early season offensive production. Rookies could be a theme again when these teams meet. In the Canucks' last visit to the Staples Center, the debuting Nikolai Goldobin scored the game-winner in his first game as a Canuck. Could another burgeoning young rookie in the Canucks' lineup steal the show under Hollywood's bright lights?

 

Who to watch: Dustin Brown 

It's been quite a few seasons since Dustin Brown has been considered a premier offensive threat, but he's been turning back the clock in the early going this season producing at nearly a point-per-game pace. Playing alongside Anze Kopitar certainly has a way of helping amp up point production. No one expects Brown to keep his early-season pace going but if he does stick with Kopitar and continues to see regular time on the power play - the latter being something he didn't enjoy the last several seasons under Sutter - he could crack the 50-point mark for the first time since 2011.12, the same season the Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history.

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