When previewing this road trip in this blog and on the podcast over the last week, we kept stressing the fact that the Canes would be facing three playoff teams.
Well, in a Western Conference race that’s even tighter than the one we’re used to, things change in a hurry.
Both Vancouver and Phoenix have dropped out of the top eight spots over the last few days, but are still right in the mix. Phoenix is part of an incredible five teams tied at 53 points, and only loses out on a proverbial berth due to a tiebreaker. Vancouver is only one point behind.
San Jose, in case you were wondering, is still San Jose.
All of that is not to suggest that tonight’s game will be any easier for the Canes now than it would have been last week. Expect the two games on the front and back ends of the trip against the so-called “bubble teams” to be very intense as each team fights for precious points.
There are a few interesting subplots for tonight’s game against the Canucks. Although they don’t get out there very often, the Hurricanes haven’t won in Vancouver in almost 10 years – October of 1999, to be exact. Since then, they’ve lost four straight, including the last two in overtime.
On the Vancouver side, the Canucks are now winless in their last eight games and have lost an eye-popping nine straight at home, which is obviously a big reason why they find themselves below the bold line in the standings after a good start.
Since superstar goaltender Roberto Luongo was injured on November 22, the Canucks are 9-14-6. He’s been back in the lineup for the team’s last five contests, but is still returning to form and yet to pick up his first win. I’ll be very interested to see how he holds up against the Canes tonight.
Also, there’s that Mats Sundin guy, who has just three points in nine games since finally choosing the Canucks in December. Canes coach Paul Maurice knows him well from their days together in Toronto and addressed that, among other things, to the media after yesterday’s practice.
As we’ve seen a few times already this season, a team on the ropes doesn’t always translate into an easy game, and the Hurricanes will be aware of that. Hope you can stay up late to watch it. For the true insomniacs out there, the brave Mike Maniscalco will be doing his usual postgame show on 99.9 The Fan.