Game 77: Canucks vs. Rangers (4.1.14)
When the Rangers make their lone visit of the season to Vancouver tonight, it will mark the much-anticipated return of a prominent former Canuck. And, no, I don't mean Raphael Diaz. All kidding aside, tonight's contest will see the most decorated coach in Canucks' history – Alain Vigneault – return with the Rangers. While this isn't AV's first time back at Rogers Arena – his Rangers lost a pre-season game here back in September – the storylines this time around are much more tantalizing. Vigneault, who was dispatched by the Canucks after a disappointing playoff exit last spring, has an opportunity to put perhaps the final nail into the coffin that contains the Canucks' hopes of just making it into this year's post-season. Vancouver begins play today sitting five points out of a playoff position while owing both the eighth-place Coyotes and the ninth-place Stars games in hand.
The Rangers are sitting comfortably in a playoff spot already and are looking to hold on to their spot as the second seed in the Metropolitan Division. They've been on a major roll lately as well coming into tonight's tilt having won six of their last seven outings including pummeling the Oilers 5-0 on Sunday. This is the second and final meeting between the Canucks and Rangers. New York easily handled Vancouver in their first meeting back on November 30 winning 5-2 at Madison Square Garden. Eddie Lack is expected to get his 17th consecutive start while Henrik Lundqvist, after getting the night off on Sunday in Edmonton, will likely get the call for the Rangers.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT - Live on TSN, The TEAM 1040, or online at teamradio.ca.
Keys to the Game
Keep the fight alive. As dire as the Canucks' situation is, they can't approach this game as if there's nothing left on the line. As Alex Burrows stated yesterday, they have to be continue to be professionals. They also have to treat this like a Game 7 and play accordingly – something they admittedly didn't do on Saturday in their loss to the Ducks.
Do it for Torts Take 2. It's tough to suggest what Torts' popularity level among his players is right now given all the turmoil of this season. But if there was ever a time to win one for the coach, given the limited number of meaningful games remaining, it would be tonight against Torts' old team especially seeing as how they failed to get the job done when they faced the Rangers earlier this season at MSG.
AV has his revenge. Whether he cares to admit it or not, you have to believe there's a part of AV that would love to be the reason his old team finishes out of the playoffs. If you're one of the Rangers, there's no better way to get into your coach's good books than with a big game tonight.
By the Numbers
Goals for Martin St. Louis since joining the Rangers in 14 games played. He has three assists.
Win percentage for the Canucks all-time when playing on April Fools' Day.
Goals scored by the currently-injured Chris Kreider in the Rangers' 5-2 win over the Canucks back on November 30.
Straight losses for the Canucks in head-to-head meetings against the Rangers dating back to Jan. 13, 2011.
Game point streak (2-5-7) for Zack Kassian entering tonight's game, a new career-high.
Career victories for Henrik Lundqvist, who recently became the Rangers' all-time wins leader (previous record was 301 held by Mike Richter).