After a few late-night matchups (by east coast standards), the Carolina Hurricanes are back in PNC Arena to host the Vancouver Canucks. Vancouver is finishing up their own cross-country road trip, with tonight’s game being their fifth on the east coast.
Vancouver, with 26 points, is perched four points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, and are two points behind Carolina. They own a record of 12-15-2, and defeated Carolina 4-3 in overtime back on October 16th.
As usual, the Canucks are led in points by Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, with 19 and 18 points. They are followed by Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter, and Loui Eriksson with 16, 14, and 11 points.
Sutter and Horvat should be well known by Canes fans, as Sutter was the largest piece sent from Carolina to Pittsburgh in the Jordan Staal trade, and Horvat has been a thorn in Carolina’s side (understatement of the century). The young forward has five goals in four games against the Hurricanes, and always seems to be the one driving a dagger through the Canes in past losses to the Canucks.
Despite Horvat’s kryptonite-like tendencies, Vancouver has one of the weaker offenses in the League, ranking 28th with just 2.21 average goals/game. They don’t show much life on the power play either, scoring on 13.8% of their opportunities, good for 26th in the NHL. Their shots/game average is a relatively low 29.2, which puts them at 20th.
On the back end, they feature Ben Hutton and Alexander Edler most prominently, with Troy Stecher and Erik Gudbranson rounding out the top-four. None of them are particularly offensive-minded, but Hutton does sit at 20th in takeaways among all defensemen in the League, and Stecher holds the 17th fewest giveaways among defensemen with 20+GP.
Their team defense is somewhat lacking, though. The Canucks are 24th in goals allowed/game with a 2.93 average, and they sit dead in the middle at 15th in shots against/game, giving up 30.4 SOG on average. The Canucks penalty kill has been solid, however, ranking 6th with an 84.8 kill %.
Goaltending has been split, but handled slightly more by Ryan Miller, who has taken 15 starts to 14 for Jacob Markstrom. Miller has posted a .916 SV% and 2.63 GAA, while Markstrom has a .905 SV% and 2.71 GAA. Neither has necessarily taken the reigns in net, though Miller is the bigger name.
Overall, the Canucks come into this game without much recent success. They are 2-3 in their last five games, and did not take advantage of their hot start which saw them become the final remaining unbeaten team in the NHL at the beginning of the season. They will be looking to defeat Carolina for the eighth consecutive time since December 11, 2011.
What to Watch For
- Look for a rested Ryan Miller in net tonight. Markstrom got the start in Washington on Sunday night, making 26 saves in a shutout loss to the Capitals.
- Forward Jack Skille had been on a brief scoring tear before the team’s scoreless effort in D.C. Skille had three goals in two games against Florida and Tampa Bay, and could pose a hidden threat if Carolina is not wary.
- Vancouver’s road record of 4-10-1 has been their downfall this year. After winning only one game on this road swing and being shutout in their last outing, it will be interesting to see if they come out eager to make amends or tired and flat after another deflating road loss.
- As with every meeting between Carolina and Vancouver, the Sutter/Staal post-trade narrative will be present. Sutter won the last bout, scoring the OT winner over his former club. As the Canes are likely to get #11 back in the lineup tonight after missing seven games, the two are likely to face-off (literally) once more.