Game 57: Canucks at Red Wings (2.3.14)
It may be premature to suggest the Canucks have hit rock bottom but it's certainly getting harder and harder to point out positives. Vancouver comes into this contest as losers of three straight – four of their last five overall – and are just barely hanging on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. To compound matters, they've also seen their sickbay list grow exponentially over the last few weeks with Yannick Weber being the latest to join the walking wounded after he was injured in the 4-3 loss to Winnipeg on Friday. The Canucks will welcome back head coach John Tortorella tonight as his 15-day suspension has been served. While Torts won't necessarily be able to make an impact on the ice, his return could be the spark the slumping Canucks need to snap out of their long funk.
The Red Wings come into tonight's game on a bit of a slump as well with just one win in their last four outings, including dropping a 6-5 overtime decision to the Capitals yesterday afternoon on Super Bowl Sunday. Like the Canucks, the Red Wings are also a banged up bunch but mostly up front as they’re currently missing Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss. Eddie Lack is expected to start tonight's game for the Canucks.
Puck drop at 4:30 pm PT - Live on Sportsnet Pacific, The TEAM 1040, or online at teamradio.ca.
Keys to the Game
Take a page from the Super Bowl champs. That is to say come out - like the Seahawks did yesterday - ready to play and make it tough on Detroit early. The Red Wings are not only the tired team having played yesterday in Washington but they've had a nasty habit lately of falling behind first allowing the opening goal in 11 of their last 12 outings.
Free Torts. There's no question that John Tortorella has been one of the emotional sparkplugs for the Canucks this season. With their head coach back behind the bench where he belongs, it should help lift the team's spirits and motivate them to come out firing against the Red Wings.
Play the body. The Red Wings don't exactly have a reputation for being a physical team but they might want to make it a point to bang a battered and bruised Canucks' team around a bit. Justin Abdelkader would be one of the players they can count on to lead the charge on that front. He leads the team this season with 141 hits.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Red Wings against the West this season (9-9-3).
Win percentage for the Canucks against the East this season (12-5-4).
Road win for the Canucks in their last seven games (1-5-1).
Red Wings named to Olympic team rosters, including six for Sweden.
Shots registered by the Canucks in their 2-1 loss to Detroit on Oct. 30 – tied for their fewest this season.
Wins by Mike Babcock behind the Red Wings bench, trailing only Jack Adams (413) and Scotty Bowman (410) on the franchise's all-time list.