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Canucks game day: Canada’s top teams face off for first time with Jets in town

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
2 months ago
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The top two teams in Canada meet for the first time this season tonight when the Vancouver Canucks (37-12-6) play host to the Winnipeg Jets (32-14-5).
The Canucks sit first in the Pacific Division, Western Conference, and overall NHL standings, while the Jets are third in the Central and seventh overall.

The match-up

With no morning skate, it will be closer to game time before the Canucks line-up for tonight’s game is revealed. The Canucks announced on Friday that Dakota Joshua (hand) will be out week to week. Based on Friday’s practice, the team skated in the same line combinations used in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Detroit. However, late yesterday, the club recalled AHL All Star MVP Arshdeep Bains from Abbotsford. It’s possible the Surrey native could make his NHL debut tonight, although without the benefit of a practice with the big-league team it’s more likely Bains will be an extra body.
Elias Lindholm had his second two-goal game since joining the Canucks leading the offensive charge on Thursday. JT Miller scored for the second time in three games while Nikita Zadorov had his first goal as a Canuck. Lindholm has 4+1=5 in six games since being acquired. His line with Elias Pettersson and Nils Höglander combined for 2+4=6 against the Red Wings. Hoglander has 3+1=4 on a four-game point streak.
The Canucks need to get their power play going again. It is 0 for 15 in the past five games. Beyond that, it is -2 over that span having given up a pair of short-handed goals in Boston on February 8th.
While the power play struggles, the team’s penalty kill has become a strength. The Canucks killed off all five Detroit power plays on Thursday and 10 of the last 11 short-handed situations. Since December 18th, the Canucks PK is fourth in the NHL at 87.1%.
The Canucks are 6-0-1 in their last seven at home and 11-1-1 in their last 13 at Rogers Arena.
Tonight’s game should be a match-up of two All Stars and the two Vezina favourites with Thatcher Demko in goal for the Canucks and Connor Hellebuyck between the pipes for the Jets. The Canucks are tied for second in the league in goals per game (3.69) while Winnipeg allows the fewest goals per game (2.27).
The Jets have been idle since a 1-0 win over San Jose on Wednesday. Morgan Barron scored the game’s only goal and Connor Hellebuyck made 17 saves for his third shutout of the season. Hellebuyck is 25-10-3 on the season with a 2.13 GAA and a .926 save percentage. He has not allowed more than three goals in a game in 30 straight outings since surrendering four in a 5-2 loss to Vegas on November 2nd.
The Jets are the best defensive team in the NHL allowing 116 goals this season. That is 16 fewer than Florida and 24 fewer than the Canucks and Boston. Winnipeg has won back to back games allowing just one goal in the process (they beat San Jose 1-0 and before that Pittsburgh 2-1).
While the Jets excel defensively, they struggle to score goals. Winnipeg has been held to four goals in its last four games and nine goals in its last eight outings. Kyle Connor leads Winnipeg with 19 goals on the season while Mark Schiefele leads the Jets with 43 points. He is the only Winnipeg skater with more than 36 points so far this season.
Sean Monahan is still looking for his first point as a Jet after being acquired from Montreal four games ago.
The Jets are 26th in the league on the PP (14.8%) and 25th on the PK (77.7%).
This is the first of three meetings between the teams this season with the Jets returning to Vancouver on March 9th and the Canucks making their lone visit to Winnipeg in the final game of the regular season on April 18th.
Tonight’s referees: Eric Furlatt and Brian Pochmara

What was said

Rick Tocchet on facing the Jets for the first time: “Well, we want to push the pace but we know there might not be a lot for the first 30 minutes. We can’t get antsy. Sometimes we get antsy and try to make a play that’s not there and then we get those three-on-ones the other way. We might have to be comfortable winning a 2-1 hockey game. They’re not scared of winning 2-1. I find this year we’ve been in that mode too where we’ve played some time games and we’re fine with it. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of room out there but you might as well get used to it because it’s going to be like that down the road, too.”
JT Miller on the mindset of facing the best defensive team in the league: “With all due respect to them, I think we’re more worried about ourselves. We’ve proven we can score on any team in the league and play with anybody. We know if we stick to our game plan and come out and play the right way from the start, I like our chances. We’ve proven we can win 1-0 or 7-4. It doesn’t matter. We know they’re a good hockey team and we know they’re a playoff-like team and we like to be in games like that. It’s going to be a good test for us and I’m looking forward to it.”

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