at VANCOUVER CANUCKS
March 14th, 2013
Vancouver, British Columbia
9:00 p.m. CDT
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Game available in Atlanta market
Vancouver leads season series 1-0
The Nashville Predators opened up their five-game road trip with a 4-0 shutout of the Dallas Stars. They’re still 1-5-1 over their last seven road games, though. Now that fans have had a day to come down from beating the Stars, they’ll be wondering whether that road weakness is going to resurface against a Canucks team that shut the Preds out 1-0 in Nashville on February 22nd.
(11-9-6, 4th in Central)
Nashville sits just outside the playoff zone right now due to tiebreakers. But with just two points separating third through 10th places in the Western Conference right now, they can stay in the thick of the hunt by winning in Vancouver.
Pekka Rinne (10-8-5, 2.00 GAA, .924 SV%) was once again in classic form last time out against the Stars, stopping all 32 shots he faced for his league-leading fifth shutout. We saw that kind of play from him for a stretch in early February before both he and the team played badly for a few weeks in a row. Right now he’s hot again; he has allowed just one goal in the last 194:06.
After a slow start captain Shea Weber (4G-10A) is suddenly second on the team in scoring, having moved ahead of Martin Erat with a goal in the Dallas game. He has points in four straight games, matching his longest streak of the season, and he made a mess out of Dallas’ Antoine Roussel in a third-period line brawl. Just goes to prove to the old adage: “Angry Shea is Effective Shea.”
Others to watch
Barry Trotz is going to be the juggling lineups again tonight. Chris Mueller is up from Milwaukee to replace the injured Paul Gaustad at center on the fourth line. Zach Boychuk (1G-0A) was a healthy scratch last game but could play again tonight. Bobby Butler (1G-1A), Brandon Yip (2G-3A), and Matt Halischuk (0G-2A) are all in the bottom-six mix, too.
(12-7-6, 1st in Northwest)
After briefly losing their grip on first place in the Northwest Division to the Minnesota Wild, the Canucks are back on top for the moment thanks to a shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Cory Schneider (6-5-3, 2.63, .910) was supposed to be the undisputed #1 goalie for the Canucks before the season started, but things haven’t really worked out that way. Instead he’s essentially platooning with Roberto Luongo (6-2-3, 2.08, .917). Whichever gets the start tonight will face the same problem as they have all season: too many penalties (12.4 PIM/game) and poor penalty-killing (80.6 percent).
Sedin-bots: activate! Form of: Henrik (6G-18A) and Daniel (8G-15A)!
Others to watch
Missing Ryan Kesler (1G-4A) again, the Canucks offense behind the Sedins is missing some of its characteristic punch. But Alexandre Burrows (5G-9A), Mason Raymond (6G-6A), Jannik Hansen (6G-7A), and Chris Higgins (7G-4A) have provided some reliable depth over the first half of the season.
Since beating the Nashville Predators in their first meeting the Canucks have gone just 2-4-2, losing to Calgary, San Jose, Columbus, Phoenix, and Minnesota along the way. In other words, they’re vulnerable. If Nashville can play like they did in Dallas they have a good shot at winning this game. They could still regress, though. The Nashville fan base wants to believe that the Preds can still turn this season around. Making that a reality requires games like this one ending up in the Preds’ “W” column.