The Vancouver Canucks will look to bounce back from a humbling 6-2 loss earlier this week against the San Jose Sharks, and they’ve got something of a gimme on the docket in the Arizona Coyotes.
Sellers at the recent NHL trade deadline, the Coyotes have subtracted a whole mess of key contributors from their lineup recently including Antoine Vermette, Zybnek Michalek, Keith Yandle. Perhaps most importantly from a Canucks perspective: serial injurer of Canucks player Martin Hanzal is on Injured Reserve.
Vancouver has struggled against bottom feeders over the past month. Can they get back on track against a club that’s squarely eyeing the McEichel lottery?
Puck drop: 6:30 p.m. EST
Television: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: TSN 1040
Lineups courtesy Dailyfaceoff.com:
The Canucks are getting some key top-of-the-lineup pieces back on Tuesday night, including Alex Burrows – who won’t immediately be reunited with the twins, and will instead play with Chris Higgins and Shawn Matthias – and Alex Edler, who goes back onto his top-pair role alongside Yannick Weber. Frank Corrado will draw out of the lineup as Luca Sbisa retains his top-four spot playing on his weak side with Dan Hamhuis.
Eddie Lack starts, obviously, because points are important and the suggestion that the club should give Jacob Markstrom more opportunities to acclimatize to NHL action fails to account for how big a priority making the playoffs is, and should be.
The Coyotes are an under-skilled, newly put together group. To give you an idea of just how much of a guaranteed two points this should be for Vancouver: all three of Arizona’s projected top-nine centreman for Thursday night’s game have been on waivers this season.
Head to Head
- Avoid the unforced error: Vancouver has regularly defeated the best teams in the league of late – the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, the Boston Bruins, the St. Louis Blues, the Chicago Blackhawks and on and on. But they’ve dropped in the past few weeks to the Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames and the New Jersey Devils. Dropping games to weaker teams, and especially to historically bad teams like the Sabres, those are the unforced errors that – as we get closer to the end of the season – the Canucks can’t afford in a tight playoff race.
- Bounce Lack: Lack has been every bit as good as Ryan Miller has been this season, and over the past three actually, but he’s struggled since a stellar 40-plus save performance against the Bruins last week. Can Lack put tough outings against the Blues and the Sabres behind him with a strong start against Phoenix? As Markstrom’s outing against the Sharks on Tuesday made clear, the Canucks will need Lack to provide stability down the stretch, so the club should be hoping that he can begin to get on a bit of a roll here.
- Kassian keeps his first-line job: The Canucks kept Zack Kassian beyond the NHL trade deadline and, though he missed Tuesday’s game with the flu, he’s right back onto the Canucks’ first-line – even with Alex Burrows returning to the lineup. This represents the single biggest vote of confidence the coaching staff has given Kassian during Willie Desjardins’ rookie year. That it took him shooting, like, 50 percent over the course of an entire month is perhaps a troubling sign for how this coaching staff evaluates players, but who cares? The big guy has a major opportunity now, let’s see if he can run with it.