February 09 2011 10:06AM
OH GOD. HAMHUIS! PLEASE DON'T GET HURT! (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America)
Game Day Recon #55 - Ducks @ Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks got some good news about Keith Ballard's injury last night, if you can call it good. The hip-checking defenseman will not be lost for the season. Instead he is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a knee sprain.
So tonight begins a long stretch with Ballard and Edler on the blue line. And they face a stiff test to start this Ballard-less month as the Anaheim Ducks visit Rogers Arena.
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
The Anaheim Ducks have climbed back up the goofy, inexplicable Western Conference Standings. Apart from the Canucks in 1st and the Red Wings in 2nd, and the Oilers in 15th, the rest of the standings are a complete mess and impossible to figure out. Third place and 14th are separated by a mere 9 points. Compare that to the East, where 4th place and 13th place are separated by 29 points.
This all means that points in the West are crucial, every game is becoming a must-win for teams needing to climb the standings. And while the Ducks welcome back Ryan Getzlaf, they will be without #1 goaltender Jonas Hiller, placed on IR with fatigue. Instead the Ducks will have Curtis McElhinny between the pipes, who shut out the Avs last game in his first start since January 16th. McElhinny has virtually no experience against the Canucks, having started on 2 games, and having played only 170 minutes against Vancouver, with a 2.82 GAA and a .908 Sv%. Tonight should be a tough test for McElhinny, given the history of Canucks/Ducks contests. The teams have split their season series so far, combining for 15 regulation goals. In fact, in their last 10 meetings, 8 of those games have featured 7 combined goals or more.
The Canucks will be starting their backup as well, as Cory Schneider gets the nod tonight. Schneider will likely want to forget his only game played against the Ducks, as he played only 1 period and let in 3 goals on 12 shots. However, the red-headed backstop has been great at home this year, going 4-0-1 with a 2.40 GAA and a .911 Sv%. And those numbers are actually below his combined stats for the year. Schneider has had a terrific year, and has proven on more than one occasion that he can steal a game.
Plus, both the Ducks and Canucks are both on solid runs right now, going 7-3-0 and 6-1-3 respectively. So tonight will be a real test for both teams. Both Anaheim and Vancouver last played on Monday, and both won. Both teams are at least 9 games over .500 on 1 day's rest, they both have great records on weekday games, and both teams have winning records in games after a victory. (However the Canucks hold a big lead in that category). However, the Ducks are a mere 12-13-3 on the road and 19-16-3 against Conference opponents. Compare that to the Canucks who are 19-3-5 at home and are 25-7-7 against the Conference.
Per Darren Dreger on Twitter, Anaheim has acquired D Francois Beauchemin from the Maple Leafs in exchange for RW Joffrey Lupul, D Jake Gardiner and a conditional 2013 draft pick. It's hard to imagine that Beauchemin will be in Vancouver in time for tonight's game. So the Ducks will be down a forward tonight, which should help the Canucks.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Quick, accurate passes out of the defensive zone. The Canucks have a depleted defense corps. Alberts and Rome have just come back form injury and rookie Chris Tanev, while impressive in his games thus far, is ... well ... a rookie. The Canucks will do themselves a LOT of favours by spending as little time as possible in their own zone. They should be making 1-2 passes max to get out of their zone and get up ice. They also need all five players back at all times to provide as many outlets for those passes as possible.
2. Get to McElhinny early... and hopefully often. Since he hasn't had any experience against the Canucks, it's important for them to pepper him and give his problems as quickly as possible.
3. Efficient, lethal power play. The Ducks take a LOT of penalties, ranking 26th in PIMs/gm. In their last game, the Canucks were certainly guilty of trying to pass the puck into the net on the PP, trying to make the absolutely perfect play. They can't do that tonight. They need to be lethal. 2-3 passes, then shot on net. Repeat until goal scored. And again and again.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Ducks @ Canucks (canucks.com)
2. Canucks Gameday, Vancouver goes Duck hunting (The Province)
3. Surviving the defenceman death trap (Vancouvr Sun)
4. Ducks put Hiller on IR; McElhinney to start (Orange County Register)
5. Ducks/Canucks Preview (Yahoo! Sports)