The Canucks return to the friendly confines of Rogers Arena on Thursday for their second meeting of the season with the Nashville Predators. Will Vancouver keep their winning streak alive? And will Carrie Underwood be able keep her composure? Read on to find out.
The Canucks were in Edmonton on Tuesday night without their head coach John Tortorella, captain Henrik Sedin, and one of the biggest bargains in the league Mike Santorelli.
Zack Kassian, who seems to derive his energy from breaking the hearts of the Edmonton Oilers and their fan base, helped ease those problems by having himself another solid game. While most people were preoccupied with the Oilers finally getting some retribution for Sam Gagner’s shattered jaw, Kassian seemed more interested in the skilled side of the game by scoring the game-winning goal off of a beautiful pass from Ryan Kesler.
The Oilers would make things interesting late in the third period when Jordan Eberle scored off a mad scramble in front of Roberto Luongo to cut the lead in half with five minutes left. Fortunately for the collective blood pressure of British Columbia, there would be no tying goal in the final minute as the Canucks defeated the Oilers 2-1 to run their winning streak to a solid two games.
The Nashville Predators are still in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Western Conference but are a .500 team and time is running low. David Legwand and captain Shea Weber provide the bulk of the offence for Nashville with support from Carrie Underwood’s husband (Mike something?), Craig Smith and Patrick Hornqvist.
Rookie defenceman Seth Jones, who somehow managed to fall from projected first to fourth overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, is having himself an excellent start to his issue this season, as their starting goalie Pekka Rinne has been out since October 22 with a hip infection. Judging by their recent acquisition of former Edmonton Oiler Devan Dubnyk, it looks like Rinne may be done for the year which puts the onus on Carter Hutton and the aforementioned Dubnyk to carry the load.
The Predators will have some extra fire power on the blue line, as Nashville traded for Michael Del Zotto on Wednesday, shipping dependable defenceman Kevin Klein to the New York Rangers.
Image: Frederick Breedon / Getty Images
Carrie likes that trade!
Don’t expect any major changes for the Canucks. Jordan Schroeder was practicing alongside David Booth and Zack Kassian, but only because Brad Richardson was taking a maintenance day. It appears that Schroeder will spend the weekend with the Utica Comets in their series against the Abbotsford Heat, pointing to his imminent return.
Ryan Stanton was also at practice on Wednesday and should be close to returning.
D. Sedin – Kesler – Burrows
Higgins – Dalpe – Hansen
Kassian – Richardson – Booth
Weise – Lain – Sestito
Hamhuis – Tanev
Garrison – Stanton
Edler – Bieksa
Okay, it’s not much of a win streak, especially when you consider the wins have, in no way, been dominant against the two inept Alberta teams. But win streaks have to start somewhere and I remember a time when the Canucks couldn’t even beat the teams they were supposed to beat.
Vancouver has lost some ground in the West thanks to their brutal January schedule and two trips through Death Valley (aka southern California) so now would be a fantastic time to string a few wins together. With the new conference alignment, I’m betting the stretch run is going to be a gong show as a few teams are still within reach of a playoff spot that the Canucks currently occupy.
It is becoming more clear as the season progresses that Zack Kassian thrives in an environment where he is major influence on the storyline of the game. When Kassian has a chance to be engaged, he can become a difference maker. Although it looks like the Canucks coaching staff are trying to reel him in a little bit (as the misconduct penalties are starting to pile up), you cannot deny that when Kassian is up chirping at the other team’s bench, his head is in the game, which seems to translate to some solid play on the ice.
I think the next couple of games will be very telling as Nashville and Phoenix can make it hard to really be engaged in the game. Heck, even Carrie Underwood has issues staying awake.
I don’t think anyone in their right mind believes that John Tortorella didn’t deserve the punishment he received for storming the Calgary locker room on Saturday night. However, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated Torts endearing himself to the Vancouver fan base to the degree he has this early into his tenure as head coach.
For the first time in a long time, the Canucks finally seem fed up with being considered a soft team and have adopted a new attitude that pushes back at teams that try to take advantage of their past reputation. Again, while I don’t condone what John Tortorella did, I can’t help but love the influence he is having on the Vancouver Canucks. At the very least, this team is exciting to watch again.
I don’t think this game will have the same type of emotion that the previous two games featured. That being said, I think playing against the Predators at home and controlling the line matchups is a huge advantage.
I’m saying Canucks take this game 4-1. Carrie Underwood is her usual, composed self.