Game 49: Canucks at Coyotes (1.16.14)
The Canucks would love to chalk up yesterday's disastrous 9-1 loss to the Ducks as just "one of those games." Unfortunately, "those games" where the Canucks have come away with nothing has been far too common. While not all of their losses in their current stretch of eight losses in nine outings have been as ugly as last night's effort was, the end results tend to be the same with the Canucks picking up few - or none - in the way of much-needed points and now find themselves slowly sliding down the Western Conference playoff ladder. Tonight they'll face another critical test with potential playoff implications when they take on a Coyotes team that currently sits outside the top-eight in the Conference but are just six points behind them and also hold two games in hand.
The Coyotes, like the Canucks, have experienced some tough times since the start of the New Year with just one win in seven outings (1-6-0) since the calendar rolled over to 2014. They've also lost a season-high four in a row including dropping a 2-1 decision to the Blues in their most recent outing on Tuesday. The Canucks and Coyotes have split the first two games of the season series with each team picking up an extra time victory over the others. The Canucks were the most recent victors earning a 3-2 overtime win at Jobing.com Arena back on December 6. Roberto Luongo, who was in net for the Canucks for that win in Phoenix last month, is doubtful to return to the lineup tonight. He has missed the last five games and counting with an ankle injury. His soon-to-be Canadian Olympic teammate, Mike Smith, is the expected starter for the Coyotes.
Puck drop at 6 pm PT - Live on Sportsnet Pacific, The TEAM 1040, or online at teamradio.ca.
Keys to the Game
Forget last night. The Canucks' team psyche might have taken a severe blow last night but the good news for them is tonight's a new night. The scoreboard will read 0-0 when the games starts and they can't lose sight of the fact they have a great opportunity to create some breathing room against a Coyotes team they'll be battling down the road for a playoff spot against.
The twins chime in. In the last four games, Daniel and Henrik Sedin have combined for just two assists and have factored into just one goal. The two superstars Swedes have to be the ones to lead the Canucks out of this funk and it starts with them snapping out of their respective funks and getting back to doing what they should know how to do best.
Get back to scoring at even-strength. The Coyotes have scored a power play goal in all four games during their current losing streak, but they've managed just two 5-on-5 goals during that time. They're among the top-scoring teams in the league this season but they've been in a funk lately and need to find a way to start producing again at 5-on-5.
By the Numbers
Combined wins between the Canucks and Coyotes in 2014. Their combined record in 2014 is 2-10-2.
Points needed by Daniel Sedin to reach 800 career NHL points.
Game point drought for Ryan Kesler entering play tonight.
Coyotes named to Olympic team rosters, including one for Canada (Mike Smith).
Power play goals allowed by the Canucks last night, most surrendered in one game by any team in the NHL this season.
Combined penalty minutes handed to the Canucks in their last two games.