Game 52: Canucks vs. Predators (1.23.14)
For the first time in what seems like ages, the Canucks have some positive momentum after coming off consecutive victories albeit against two of the weaker sisters in the NHL in the Flames and Oilers, respectively. They'll try to keep that momentum alive by securing another two points against yet another team behind them in the standings in the Predators. If they are to stretch their win streak to three games, they'll likely have to do so once again without the services of team captain Henrik Sedin. The good news for the Canucks, however, is that they are expected to have Brad Richardson at their disposal despite the fact the 28-year-old forward missed practice yesterday. Richardson was slashed in the leg by Edmonton's Jordan Eberle during the third period of the Canucks' 2-1 win on Tuesday but managed to finish the game.
The Predators, who are kicking off a four-game road trip, come into tonight's tilt as winners of three of their last four games including knocking off the Stars 4-1 in their most recent outing on Monday. They could debut a new face tonight in the form of offensively-gifted blue-liner Michael Del Zotto, who was acquired from the Rangers yesterday. The Preds also recently acquired a netminder who should be familiar to Canucks fans in ex-Oiler Devan Dubnyk but don't expect him to necessarily get the start tonight. Dubnyk was criticized recently by his new head coach, Barry Trotz, for having picked up "bad habits" in Edmonton. Roberto Luongo will likely get the call again between the pipes for the Canucks, who beat the Predators 3-1 back on December 3 in the first and only meeting between the clubs so far this season.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT - Live on Sportsnet Pacific, The TEAM 1040, or online at teamradio.ca.
Keys to the Game
Keep it tight. The Preds aren't known for their goal scoring but they have been hot lately netting 15 goals over their last four outings. Vancouver's offense isn't exactly their strong suit right now so they'll want to make sure they don't let Nashville's shooters dominate the game.
Kes mode: On. Ryan Kesler seems to have a knack for scoring against the Preds, especially since that epic series performance he turned in during the 2011 playoffs. In more recent history, he has four goals in his last two games versus Nashville dating back to last season and, as the interim top line centre in the absence of Henrik Sedin, he'll want to continue his scoring ways versus the Predators.
The Weber factor. Back on December 3 in their 3-1 loss to the Canucks, the Preds did not have Shea Weber available to them. Nashville, without question, is a much better team with the superstar blue-liner in the lineup. Weber, who is on pace to set a new career-high in points, has three goals and five points in his last four games.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Preds this season when Shea Weber scores (10-1-2).
Predators named to Olympic team rosters: Shea Weber (CAN) and Roman Josi (SUI).
Points needed by Daniel Sedin to reach 800 career NHL points.
Game point streak for the Preds' David Legwand entering tonight's game (1-6-7).
Straight games the Canucks have been held to two-or-fewer goals.
Consecutive regular season games without a goal for Alex Burrows. His last regular season goal came the last time he faced the Preds back on APR.15.13.