In their final game before the All-Star Break, the Canucks will take on the Nashville Predators, the hosts of this coming weekend’s festivities, in Vancouver’s first home game since January 11th.
Game Time: 7 p.m.
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
It was an interesting 6-game road trip for the Canucks, collecting 7 of a possible 12 points against six different Eastern Conference opponents. However, you could easily make the arguments that Vancouver deserved two more points or, on the other hand, that they were lucky to get home with more than two points. Outplayed badly in Washington, Carolina, Brooklyn, and New York, the Canucks escaped with 5 of a possible 8 points.
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) January 20, 2016
Then, after beating Boston, Vancouver looked poised to take the Penguins down and finish off the road trip on a high note. That was not to be. Linden Vey booted in an own goal, and Evgeni Malkin took care of the rest.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) January 23, 2016
The Predators come into tonight’s game well out of the race for one of the top three spots in the Central Division, but just a couple points out of a wild card spot and a single point ahead of Vancouver (with a game in hand). Hometown favourite Ryan Johansen has played well for his new team, racking up 9 points in his 8 games for Nashville.
1. Brandon Sutter Returns
Alright, I’ll say what everyone is thinking… FINALLY! The Canucks biggest acquisition in the offseason has yet to play 20 games in his first season with the new club, but Brandon Sutter will return to the lineup tonight against the Predators.
"Yeah I'm feeling pretty good so it's finally time to get back at it." https://t.co/xgXJ8zJdki
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) January 25, 2016
After missing 33 games due to sports hernia surgery, Sutter will be thrown directly into the fire, skating alongside Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen on Vancouver’s top line. With a relatively small sample size prior to his injury, it’s difficult to measure just how Sutter’s absence affected the Canucks. In the 16 games he did play, Vancouver was 7-4-5 (0.594 point percentage). Since he’s been gone? 13-14-6 (just 0.485).
The reassignment of stand-in Mike Zalewski opens up the roster spot for Sutter and while he likely improves almost every aspect of the Canucks’ game, he’ll be welcomed most on the penalty kill. A mainstay shorthanded, he’ll be expected to improve what has been a sub-par penalty kill this season, ranked 20th in the league.
2. Retro Jersey Unveiled
If it hasn’t been a terribly exciting season for you as a hockey fan, this announcement should get the nostalgia pumping at least. The Canucks announced before the season began that they would be (re)unveiling the old
plate of spaghetti skate jerseys for one night.
In a February 13th matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canucks will wear the jersey sported by the likes of Cliff Ronning, Greg Adams, Kirk McLean, and Pavel Bure in 1994. This special night is all part of the 20th Anniversary celebration commemorating Rogers Arena.
3. All-Star Talk
Daniel Sedin will make his third appearance at the NHL All-Star game this weekend in Nashville and, according to a recent interview with Mike Morreale of NHL.com, he’s as excited as ever to play among the league’s best.
Sedin will be representing the Pacific Division, alongside Johnny Gaudreau, Taylor Hall, Joe Pavelski, Corey Perry, Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Mark Giordano, John Gibson, Jonathan Quick, and, of course, the captain John Scott.
If I were in charge of the team, I’d have Sedin in the shooting accuracy drill, and perhaps the passing portion of the skills relay, but what do I know…
As mentioned, it appears Sutter will play on the top line, pushing Jared McCann out of the lineup.
Brandon Sutter slides in on #Canucks top line, Jared McCann appears to be odd man odd…Linden Vey skates on…and on…and on…and on…
— JAY JANOWER (@DOUBLEJGLOBALBC) January 25, 2016
After a tough outing in Pittsburgh, Ryan Miller will likely get a chance to redeem himself against the Predators tonight.
It’s difficult to handicap this game after the sporadic play of the Canucks lately. Surprisingly, this is the first meeting between these two teams this season. The last game between the Predators and Canucks produced a 5-4 come-from-behind shootout win for Vancouver, and wouldn’t that be a fun way to roll into the All-Star Break?
I’ll take the Canucks by a score of 3-2 in overtime, with Brandon Sutter notching a goal and an assist. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Right?!