The Vancouver Canucks (14-10-5) will look to conclude their road trip with back-to-back wins tonight when they battle the Nashville Predators (13-11-3) in Music City.
To say that November did not go the Canucks' way would be an understatement. Vancouver won just four of 13 games during the month and failed to win consecutive games during that entire stretch. They started December off on the right foot on Sunday, however, gutting out a 3-2 win over the Hurricanes and now have an opportunity to finish off their road trip with a very respectable 3-1-0 record if they can knock off the Predators tonight.
Nashville is looking to snap out of a mini-funk as they closed out November with two consecutive losses, most recently dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to the Flyers on Saturday. Like the Canucks, the Predators are fighting desperately to stay in striking distance of a playoff spot. They begin play today sitting four points behind the Canucks but with two games in hand. The Canucks got some bad news despite their win on Sunday in Carolina as forward Alex Burrows suffered a broken jaw in the victory and will be sidelined indefinitely. Nashville, meanwhile, may be without captain and top defenceman Shea Weber, who is day-to-day with an eye injury. Roberto Luongo will be back between the pipes for the Canucks while the Preds will likely counter with rookie Marek Mazenec, who has shined for Nashville since being recalled from the minors due to an injury to regular starter Pekka Rinne.
Puck drop at 5 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, THE TEAM 1040, or online at www.teamradio.ca.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Control the game at 5-on-5. The Canucks haven't fired on all cylinders offensively this season but they are still one of the top scoring teams playing 5-on-5. In contrast, the Preds are among the lowest scoring 5-on-5 teams. Vancouver must dictate the game at 5-on-5.
2. Avoid mental lapses. The Canucks have shown in recent outings that they're prone to sudden collapses that end up costing them on the scoreboard. They need to stay focused for 60 minutes and not allow teams get quick, consecutive goals.
3. Mazenec keeps up his magic. Not many people expected the Preds to be able to overcome the injury to star netminder Pekka Rinne but Marek Mazenec has done his part in ensuring there's been no drop-off for the Preds at least between the pipes. If the Preds win tonight, he'll probably be the biggest reason why.
DID YOU KNOW?
Tonight marks the first time the Canucks will get to see 2013 first round pick Seth Jones in person. The 19-year-old has had to mature in a hurry after jumping to the NHL from the WHL where he played last season and so far he has shown he is capable of playing at this level.
He is third on team in ice-time averaging 23:42 per game, which happens to also lead all NHL rookies this season. The Arlington, Texas native, who is the son of former NBA star and one-time Toronto Raptor Popeye Jones, has been bandied about in some circles as being a potential candidate for the U.S. Olympic team.
.932 – Save percentage for Preds' rookie goaltender Marek Mazanec this season.
1.000 – Win percentage for the Preds this season when Shea Weber scores (7-0-0). Weber is questionable for tonight's game.
2 – Times this season Roberto Luongo has not finished a game he started.
3 – Wins for the Canucks against the Preds last season to sweep the season series for the first-time ever.
7 – Rookies to appear in at least one game for Nashville this season – 3 defenceman, 2 forwards and 2 goalies.
13 – Goals scored by the Canucks in three games versus Nashville last season. The Preds managed just six.
IN THE INFIRMARY
For the Canucks…
F Alex Burrows (broken jaw) is out indefinitely. F Jordan Schroeder (sprained ankle) is on the injured reserve list.
For the Predators…
D Shea Weber (facial laceration/eye) and D Kevin Klein (lower body) are questionable. F Filip Forsberg (upper body) and G Pekka Rinne (hip surgery) are on the injured reserve list.
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