After dropping a controversial 4-2 decision to the Minnesota Wild on Super Bowl Sunday, the Canucks are back in action tonight to play host to the road-weary and slumping Winnipeg Jets, who are playing for the second time in two nights. Unlike previous years, Winnipeg looks like one of the strongest teams in the West, although they’re also locked in the battle for one of the final two Wild Card spots with Vancouver as well.
Seeing as the Jets have a penchant for aggressive play and need the two points as much as Vancouver does, it should be an intense game. Read past the jump for a preview.
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM PST
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: TSN 1040
- Zack Kassian will be a healthy scratch as Ronalds Kenins will play his 3rd consecutive game.
- Frank Corrado is doubtful. Ryan Stanton should draw in if Corrado can’t go, playing with Adam Clendening.
- Eddie Lack will get the start.
- Jay Harrisom is out with an upper body injury.
- Both Jets goalies appeared in last night’s game, but Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start.
Head to Head
- In a Funk – Both the Canucks and Jets have struggled of late. Vancouver is 4-6-0 in their past 10 games, while the Jets goaltending has gone cold, causing them to drop 4 consecutive contests. Winnipeg is still holding down the 4th place spot in the Central, have a bit more separation between themselves and the onrushing Stars and Kings than Vancouver does, and look primed to pull out of this short skid soon. The Canucks are in a more precarious position, as a loss tonight coupled with a Kings win over Washington and a Stars win over Colorado will leave Vancouver with just a one-point lead on the second Wild Card spot in the West.
- Kassian Scratched Again – A lightning rod for attention and criticism since he arrived in Vancouver in the Cody Hodgson deal, Zack Kassian can’t seem to catch a break these days. Healthy scratched for his second consecutive game, it appears that Kassian is nearing his wits end. After skating on the would-be second line in practice, he sounded off in the media yesterday, forecasting his own scratch tonight. In some ways, it’s silly to be talking about a middle-6 player at best with this much vigor, but Kassian is absolutely not the worst player on the Canucks roster, and does not deserve to sit based on his performance. He’s being crushed by unfavourable variance at both ends of the rink, sitting among the very dregs of the NHL in PDO. He’s not a true-talent 30% on-ice goals for forward, just as Alex Edler wasn’t a true-talent 30% on-ice goals for defender last season. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Kassian will get the chance that Edler has received with the Canucks.
- Flying High Again – Of all the teams that dipped into NHL free agency the last couple of seasons, the Winnipeg Jets have arguably been the most successful. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s patient-to-a-fault approach has landed the Jets an elite rate scorer and play driver in Mathieu Perreault at $3 million per season, and a talented young goalie in Michael Hutchinson for relative pennies on the dollar. He’s also drafted and developed talent exceedingly well, as Jacob Trouba, Mark Scheifele, and Adam Lowry are all 21 or under and have stepped into key roles, and dynamic youngsters like Nikolaj Ehlers, Nic Petan, and Josh Morrissey are on the horizon. Cheveldayoff has avoided handcuffing his team with murderous UFA deals, and built a competitive team from within. As a result, the Jets are legitimately a terrifying 5-on-5 team now, and are set up to remain one for the next 3-5 years, and well into the future if they can replace the criminally under-appreciated Ladd-Little-Wheeler line.
What They’re Saying
From JetsNation.ca’s Game Day post:
Like last night, the Jets need to win yet again. They need to turn the ship around, end their slump, and deposit two clean points because the teams chasing them have games in hand; Vancouver has two games in hand, and Calgary has a game in hand. The team cannot afford to lose more games when teams you’re pushing against are also fighting for a playoff spot… especially to the very teams chasing the Jets.
- Canucks.com’s Tale of the Tape
- Via Thom Drance: the Canucks won’t pay for Antoine Vermette, and other trade chatter
- The Hockey Graphs podcast episode 4 with Rhys and JetsNation.ca’s Garret Hohl
- Audio: Bob McKenzie on the Canucks, Jets, and dogfight for the West’s Wild Card spots
- Jim Jamieson of the Province looks at some red flags surrounding Vancouver
- Elliotte Friedman reports that the Canucks may be interested in Martin Hanzal
- The most negative Canucks personality on the internet, Harrison Mooney, asks the question “what’s the most painful and gut-wrenching Canucks equivalent to the Seahawks loss?”