The Vancouver Canucks (29-27-10) will try to post back-to-back wins for the first time since mid-January when they conclude their two-game home stand tonight hosting a rare visit by the New York Islanders (24-33-9).
Saturday's 2-1 win over the Flames, to put it mildly, was not exactly the most thrilling of hockey games but it's not as if the Canucks care about style points right now. The rare win allowed them to keep within striking distance of the playoff cut-off line even though they still have a significant uphill climb to make if they want to get back into the top-eight. Tonight they'll have an opportunity to inch closer by doing something they haven't done since January 18 and 21 which is to earn victories in consecutive outings. With the struggles that the Islanders have endured lately, it would have to be considered a disappointment if the Canucks aren't able to sweep their two-game home stand with a win.
The Isles are closing out a four-game Western Canada road trip tonight – a trip that has yielded just one victory and has seen them blow two-goal leads in each of their last two outings in Edmonton and Calgary, respectively. Overall, the Isles have won just two of six outings (2-3-1) coming out of the Olympic break that saw them lose team captain John Tavares to an injury. This is the second and final meeting between the Canucks and Isles this season. Vancouver persevered with a 5-4 overtime win back on October 22 on Long Island. The currently-injured Brad Richardson had the game-winner that night while the Isles got a two-goal performance from Matt Moulson, who has since moved to Minnesota via Buffalo. Zack Kassian will miss the second game of his three-game suspension tonight.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, THE TEAM 1040, or online at www.teamradio.ca.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Gain some offensive confidence. The Isles could be a cure-all for all of the Canucks' offensive woes. They've allowed 24 combined goals in their six games since the Olympic break. This might be the night for some of the Canucks' struggling scorers – ahem, Burrows – to finally break out.
2. Draw some penalties. The Isles happen to be one of the worst penalty killing teams in the league this season but, in order to take advantage of that, the Canucks will need to be able to get some calls – something they weren't able to do on Saturday. Even with Vancouver's not-so-impressive power play this season, you'd have to think the Canucks would have an edge if this game became a special teams battle.
3. Learn to hold a lead. In their last three losses, the Isles have built up two-goal leads in each of those outings only to squander it away. Given the shaky confidence level of the Canucks lately, there's no way the Isles should blow a multi-goal lead in this outing...that is unless their own confidence in being able to hold leads has been shot.
Sportsnet. We know the Canucks.
.688 – Win percentage for the Islanders in their last 16 road outings (11-4-1).
2 – Points needed by Shawn Matthias to reach 100 career points.
3 – Straight wins for the Canucks against the Isles dating back to January 11, 2011.
4 – Years since the last Isles win in Vancouver (5-2 on March 16, 2010).
12 – Goals for ex-Canuck Michael Grabner this season. He had 34 in 2011 when he was a rookie of the year nominee.
999 – Career games for Henrik Sedin including tonight's contest. He'll play in his 1,000th career NHL game on Wednesday in Winnipeg.
IN THE INFIRMARY
For the Canucks…
F Brad Richardson (undisclosed) and D Ryan Stanton (undisclosed) are doubtful. F Daniel Sedin (strained left hamstring), F Mike Santorelli (shoulder surgery) and D Andrew Alberts (head) are on the injured reserve list. F Zack Kassian is serving an NHL suspension.
For the Islanders…
F Eric Boulton (bruised hand) is questionable. F John Tavares (left knee) is on the injured reserve list.
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