CANUCKS (18-10-1) at BLUE JACKETS (8-17-4)
: SNET-VAN, FS-O
: Vancouver 9-1-0; Columbus 4-4-2.
: Vancouver has won the previous two meetings this season between these teams, who last played two weeks ago. On Nov. 29, Cory Schneider
made a remarkable 47 saves and David Booth
scored the eventual game-winner as the Canucks topped the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Vancouver.
: While the Canucks have been among the League's hottest teams of late, Columbus has shaken off a horrendous start to slowly find some consistency as the Jackets play their third contest in their current season-long five-game homestand.
: Having won seven of their previous eight games, the Canucks embarked on a five-game road swing on Dec. 8 hoping to maintain the torrid pace that saw them end November with a 8-2-0 run. The current road trip hasn't hurt the Canucks in the least. After coming back from a 3-0 deficit in Montreal to win 4-3 in the shootout, Vancouver came to Ottawa on Saturday looking to stay hot.
Against the Senators, Ryan Kesler
registered two goals and an assist before the game was halfway through as the Canucks raced out to a 3-0 lead. Colin Greening's shorthanded marker would cut the lead late in the second period, but Dale Weise
wrapped up another Canucks victory when he scored with 3:30 remaining in regulation. The 4-1 win was a strong one for the Canucks but appeared to come at a cost.
In the first period, with members of his family in attendance, Cody Hodgson
absorbed a solid hit from Nick Foligno that left him disoriented and unable to skate under his own power. Hodgson’s teammates helped him to the bench and the young forward did not return. Foligno maintained after the game that the hit was clean.
: After starting the season 1-9-1, Columbus managed to improve their play around the time Curtis Sanford
assumed the starting job in net. With Steve Mason
out with injury, Sanford started his 3-0-2 as the team's starter, bolstering the team’s confidence while providing greater stability on the back end. Sanford has gone 2-5-1 since the hot start, but Columbus has managed to stay competitive.
Opening their homestand against Nashville on Thursday, the Jackets allowed the Predators to tie the game when Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn scored with 1:36 and 0:13 left respectively. Colin Wilson scored on the extra period's only shot to give Nashville the win. Columbus looked to stay competitive Saturday against the Bruins, but once again showed a glaring inability to hold a lead.
Against the Bruins, the Blue Jackets blew an early 2-0 lead as Boston scored three power play goals to a 5-3 win. Sanford posted a pedestrian .828 save percentage, the third time in his last four games he has posted a mark below .850.
: Ryan Kesler
has led the Vancouver offensive charge with 14 points in his last 10 games. Henrik Sedin
has been just as hot, with nine points on his current five-game point streak. … For the Jackets, Rick Nash
has four points in his last five games while James Wisniewski
has five points in his last five games.
: Hodgson is questionable against Columbus while Andrew Ebbett
(foot) and David Booth
(knee) are on IR. … For the Blue Jackets, Radek Martinek
(concussion), Kristian Huselius
(groin), and Derek Dorsett
(leg) are out.
: As he was last season, Kesler has been the key for Vancouver. The Canucks went 2-3-0 to start the season when Kesler was out with an injury. Since Kesler’s return, Vancouver is 5-1-0 in games in which the star center scores. Last season, the team posted a remarkable 26-1-2 record when Kesler scores.
: Over the course of a difficult season in Columbus, it has been special teams that have primarily let down the Blue Jackets. Their penalty kill ranks dead last in the League with a 73.7 percent success rate while their power play ranks fourth-worst behind only Montral, St. Louis, and Phoenix. That weak power play has been a lost opportunity for Columbus, who are second in the League in total power play time behind Carolina.