The Canucks continue to tinker with their forward units and defense, re-uniting the American Express line of U.S.-born forwards Chris Higgins
, Ryan Kesler
and David Booth
as they attempt to bump their worst slump in four months.
That it’s a two-game losing streak in regulation -- four of five (1-2-2) if you throw in overtime and shootout losses that sandwiched a win over St. Louis -- says a lot about expectations surrounding a Vancouver team that ran away with the Western Conference last season, but comes into this game second.
Still, there are improvements needed, so the changes continue against the Jets on Thursday night, with newcomer Marc-Andre Gragnani
now on a third pairing with youngster Christopher Tanev
while the more established Aaron Rome
joins fellow veteran Andrew Alberts
in the press box as healthy scratches on defense.
Here are the rest of the expected lineups for Thursday night. The Canucks are 41-18-8, while the Jets are 32-27-8 come to Rogers Arena on a 6-1-2 roll, but will have to reverse the trend of being much better at home (21-10-4) than on the road (11-17-4) to hold onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
- Henrik Sedin
- Alexandre Burrows
- Ryan Kesler
- David Booth
- Samuel Pahlsson
- Jannik Hansen
- Maxim Lapierre
- Zack Kassian
- Kevin Bieksa
- Sami Salo
- Christopher Tanev
, who cut his professional teeth in Winnipeg with the Canucks' AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, is back in goal after watching Roberto Luongo
start the last three.
In addition to the goaltending change, the re-unification of the American Express second line that showed so much promise earlier in the season also changes up the third and fourth units, with the struggling speedster Raymond now on a checking unit, and big trade addition Kassian moving back to more of a crash-and-bang fourth line after a game-plus experiment on that second line.
Gragnani, who came to Vancouver with Kassian in the trade with Buffalo, will continue to get a look on a first power-play unit that still ranks third in the League but has just one goal in the last eight games amid a two-month slump.
- Bryan Little
- Blake Wheeler
- Alexander Burmistrov
- Kyle Wellwood
- Jim Slater
- Chris Thorburn
- Nik Antropov
- Antti Miettinen
- Dustin Byfuglien
- Grant Clitsome
- Mark Stuart
starts in goal, with Chris Mason
No lineup changes for a Jets team that built most of its recent 6-1-2 run during a long homestand, but showed some improvement with a 4-3-0 record the last seven road games. That's a notable number considering they have lost 21 of 32 road contests this season.