Game 45: Canucks vs. Penguins (1.7.14)
Being welcomed home by the one of the league's best teams after a 0-for-2 road trip probably isn't at the top of the Canucks' wish list but it's the card they've been dealt. Considering the list of opponents doesn't get much easier over these next couple of weeks, the Canucks have no choice but to find a way to scratch and claw for a victory tonight before their current winless skid spirals even further out of control. If they are going to win, however, they'll have to do it once again without Roberto Luongo who has been sidelined once again with an ankle injury sustained during Saturday's loss in Los Angeles when he was ran over in his crease by the Kings' Dustin Brown. Eddie Lack, who has performed admirably this season when called upon, has been in a funk lately going winless in three straight starts while allowing 11 combined goals.
The Penguins, who are one of the league's top scoring teams, come into tonight's contest riding a two-game win streak since the start of the New Year and as victors in 11 of their last 13 outings dating back to early December. The Pens, unlike the Canucks, are a team starting to get healthy as they welcomed back Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to their lineup in their 6-5 win over Winnipeg on Sunday. Vancouver, meanwhile, continues to be without the likes of Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Ryan Stanton, as well as Chris Higgins who sat out Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss to Anaheim. This is the second and final meeting this season between the Canucks and Penguins. Pittsburgh beat Vancouver 4-3 in a shootout back on October 19 at the Consol Energy Center. Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to be between the pipes for Pittsburgh.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT - Live on Sportsnet Pacific, The TEAM 1040, or online at teamradio.ca.
Keys to the Game
Finish strong. Starting well hasn't been a problem for the Canucks lately. It's finishing strong that has been an issue. In their four-game winless skid, they've been out-shot by a combined 52-38 and out-scored by a combined 6-2 during third periods. Those numbers need to turn around.
Lack steals one. Eddie Lack has stared down some pretty tough opponents this season – the Blues, Blackhawks and Ducks come to mind – without batting an eye. But it's no secret if the Canucks are to win tonight, they'll need him to stare down the likes of Crosby, Malkin and Kunitz and stand on his head to stop them.
Malkin-mania runs wild. The Pens got along just fine with Malkin in their lineup but there's no question they're exponentially more dangerous when the talented Russian is in the lineup. Malkin is the Pens' third-leading scorer despite missing a quarter of their games this season. The scary part is he was just finding his scoring touch before he went down with a leg injury recently. He has eight goals in his last 11 games played after managing just three in his first 22.
By the Numbers
Point needed by Jason Garrison for his 100th career NHL point.
Win needed by Dan Byslma to become the Penguins' all-time coaching wins leader. He currently has 232, tied with Eddie Johnston.
Straight losses for the Canucks to the Penguins coming into this game (0-1-2).
Straight games the Canucks have surrendered three-or-more goals – their longest such streak of the season.
Game point streak for Pens captain Sidney Crosby. He has three goals and nine points during the streak.
Combined shots surrendered by the Canucks over their California weekend. They managed just 48 shots for.