Game #40 Preview – Blood In The Water

The last time that the Sharks visited Rogers Arena to play a meaningful game, this happened.
How about some more magic tonight, Kevin? Kevin, stop dancing and listen.
(Photo by Ben Nelms/Reuters)

Game Day Recon: Game #40 – Sharks @ Canucks

By January 22nd, the Canucks and Sharks will have played all four of their regular season games against one another. That’s quite a shame, given the bad blood that had clearly developed between these two teams.

Next year, however, with divisional realignment we’ll get to see a WHOLE LOT of the Fish Battle. Right now, we just have to enjoy the spectacle and take it all in. And let’s hope that involves more Canucks game-winning goals off The Stanchion.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 5:00 PM PT

TV: RSN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

In a strange schedule quirk, the San Jose Sharks have sat idle since their last game at home against the Canucks. The Canucks, however, continued their California adventure with another win and a loss. The Canucks have played five more games that the Sharks and are about to hit the midway point of their schedule. As a result the Sharks have got a LOT of game to make up on the schedule, starting tonight in Vancouver.

For the Canucks, their foray into California was a hot, hot roadie. Not necessarily for the results (although they did go 2-1-0 – not too shabby) but because every game turned into really emotional, angry game. And that should definitely continue tonight, with the Sharks looking to avenge a loss. Something else that continue tonight is the trend of the Sharks and Canucks playing close, entertaining games. Their last game was no different, and we should expect a lot of carry-over from Wednesday’s game.

One addition to the Canucks lineup which will definitely give them a boost is Chris Higgins. After a spell in the hospital to treat … SOMETHING … Higgins will play against the Sharks, giving the Canucks a huge influx of energy, physicality, truculence, pugnaciousness, and other fun words that Brian Burke would use to describe a player. In a game like tonight, where it is expected to be full of in-your-face moments, the return of Higgins could be a huge plus for the Canucks.

Game Notes

As mentioned, Chris Higgins returns to the lineup after battling a viral infection. Roberto Luongo gets the start in goal tonight. Manny Malhotra is also cleared to play tonight after blocking a shot with his foot.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Get yer punchin’ hands ready, boys! Tonight is going to be a ROUGH affair. First of all, the last time these two teams played, there was some heat on the ice. A LOT OF IT. The Sharks haven’t played since then, either. So all they’ve done is stew about that loss on home ice, waiting for revenge. The Canucks played twice since, but lost in a terrible effort on Saturday, which was also quite a testy game. Both teams have anger brewing right now, and it is BOUND to spill out on the ice. So Canucks, get ready to throw some punches tonight.
  2. Chris Higgins and his forechecking. His fast, physical, North-South style game is going to be a huge factor for the Canucks. Arguably the Canucks best forechecking forward, Higgins adds a huge element to the Canucks offense that they’ll need tonight – Pressure on the Sharks defencemen. When the Sharks are readily allowed to move the puck to their skilled forwards, they dominate most games. A relentless forecheck and pressure on their blueliners will take away a big part of the Sharks game plan. Also, if the game starts slipping away from the Canucks, Chris Higgins needs to start biting the Sharks players, since he has quite obviously been infected by Zombies. Tthis is another ace-in-the-hole that Higgins possesses – forechecking prowess, speed, Zombie virus.
  3. Give Luongo some breathing room. The Sharks are going to swarm the net at every opportunity. The Canucks, especially their defencemen, HAVE to clear space for Luongo. They have to avoid having the Sharks forwards literally collapse on top of their goalie. Clear the puck and clear the bodies away from Lu tonight.

The Links

Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Higgins returns to take on the Sharks (The Province)
  3. Game Day: Canucks vs. Sharks (The Province)
  4. Canucks vow to kick off 2012 with better effort (Vancouver Sun)
  5. Canucks, Sharks can expect another close game (CBC Sports)