Canucks Army GDT #11 – Canucks vs. Predators

One day after a 3-2 win in Edmonton and their 4th consecutive win, Vancouver is back home to play host to the surprisingly good Nashville Predators. Bo Horvat may or may not make his regular season NHL debut, and Eddie Lack will likely get the start against a red hot Pekka Rinne.

Read past the jump for a full preview of tonight’s game and a look at today’s news and notes from practice.

Broadcast Info

Puck Drop: 6:30 PM PST

TV: Sportsnet Pacific

Radio: TSN 1040

Lineups

Bo Horvat has been recalled from Utica and skated this morning. He may draw into the lineup in place of Tom Sestito. Ryan Stanton is also ready to return to action. Eddie Lack is expected to get his 3rd start of the season.

Defensive Pairings
Roman Josi 
Roman Josi
Shea Weber 
Shea Weber
Anton Volchenkov 
Anton Volchenkov
Seth Jones 
Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm 
Mattias Ekholm
Ryan Ellis 
Ryan Ellis

Anton Volchenkov will not play as he has been suspended for four games for an illegal check to the head of Calgary’s Michael Ferland. Pekka Rinne will start in goal.

Preview

First of all, a note from last night’s game: Andrew Ference will have a telephone hearing for his check on Zack Kassian. The NHL DoPS referred to the play as “an illegal check to the head/charging,” so a 3-4 game ban seems like a reasonable guess for Ference.

Although he’s in town, it seems unlikely that Bo Horvat will make his Canucks debut tonight as he’s being put through the paces pretty hard at practice this morning. Horvat went pointless through 5 games with the Utica Comets, totaling 9 shots on goal, 4 PIMs, and an even +/-. Unfortunately, we don’t really have good data on what Horvat’s deployment was like, nor do we know if he generally controlled play, or was strong on the penalty kill or in the faceoff circle either.

We expect that Horvat will be a good middle-6 centre in his prime, but he’s still just 19 years old. He’s very likely not close to that right now, and I have a tough time seeing him bring more to the table than Brad Richardson or Linden Vey in these next 9 games. Outside of guys that are the absolute cream-of-the-crop, it’s pretty rare that 19-year olds make an immediate impact in the NHL, especially in the faceoff dot and defensive end of the rink – the two areas we’re told that Horvat excels. Personally, I’d be surprised if Horvat is better than a 45% faceoff guy until he’s 21 or so.

As for Nashville, they’re off to a hot start this year, tied for the Central division lead with a 6-2-2 record. Pekka Rinne has been excellent, contributing to the Preds’ 0.950 even strength save percentage, but has struggled in his career against Vancouver for whatever odd reason.

Nashville is also one of the NHL’s better puck possession teams in the early going with a 53.5% Corsi in score-close situations, as the offseason additions of Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, and James Neal appear to be paying early dividends for new head coach Peter Laviolette.

We pointed out yesterday that Dallas Eakins took a page out of Alain Vigneault’s book of extreme zone deployments, but no one has buried a player like Laviolette has done with Paul Gaustad. Gaustad’s 40% Corsi looks rather pedestrian, but it’s pretty good once you consider that he has just 4 offensive zone starts on the year compared to a staggering 76 in the defensive zone, good for a 5.0% offensive zone start rate. This has enabled Laviolette to give nearly every forward in Nashville’s top-9 a very favourable offensive deployment, resulting in pretty solid possession numbers from guys that aren’t traditionally great two-way players.

All in all, it would be fantastic for Vancouver if adding Bo Horvat as a DZ specialist enabled Willie Desjardins to deploy his lineup in a similar fashion to Eakins and Laviolette since the Sedins are seeing the lowest offensive zone start rate of their entire professional hockey careers, but it’s not as if Desjardins doesn’t have the horses to specialize his roster a little more. Derek Dorsett has experience with being buried under Alain Vigneault, as does Brad Richardson with John Tortorella.

Tonight’s game may be a schedule loss for the Canucks, as they played just over 24 hours ago and had to fly back from Edmonton too. Two of their three losses have been on the two second halves of back-to-back games they’ve played in this season, and the Canucks have been pretty thoroughly outplayed both times around. Eddie Lack is probably going to have to stand on his head tonight if Vancouver wants at least a point out of this game. We’ll see if he can have is first adequate outing of the year.