The Canucks come off a moderately successful four-game home-stand, in which they picked up five out of a possible eight points, to make a quick trip to take on Calgary in their last game before the Christmas break.
It’s undoubtedly a trip the Canucks could do without given a number of reasons: they played last night, it’s two days before Christmas, and their road record stinks.
Will the Canucks head into their break in a good or bad mood? We’ll soon see.
Vancouver Canucks (14-17-3, 31 points) vs Calgary Flames (17-16-2, 36 points)
Venue: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary
Time: 6 pm PT
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: TSN 1040
|Goals for||2.41 (23rd)||2.51 (20th)|
|Goals against||3.06 (26th)||2.89 (21st)|
|Power play %||13.7 (27th)||18.6 (15th)|
|Penalty kill %||80.0 (21st)||80.2 (20th)|
|Shots for||28.5 (24th)||27.9 (29th)|
|Shots against||30.2 (17th)||29.6 (12th)|
|Faceoff %||51.9 (5th)||49.4 (16th)|
With Jannik Hansen’s latest injury, Anton Rodin could get into the Canucks lineup. If the Canucks decided to wait until after Christmas for Rodin, then look for Brendan Gaunce to get back in.
*Update: Rodin will make his NHL debut.
Rodin was drafted 7 years, 5 months & 26 days ago. No #Canucks draft pick has ever waited longer before making NHL debut.
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) December 23, 2016
Given that Ryan Miller played last night, look for Jacob Markstrom to start in goal.
We won’t know the lines until the pre-game skate, so here’s a guess:
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Eriksson|
Less than two weeks after returning from injury, forward Jannik Hansen is on the sidelines again. He took a knee-on-knee hit from Jets forward Mathieu Perreault last night and did not finish the game.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 23, 2016
As Hansen made his way to the dressing room for good, head coach Willie Desjardins knew things weren’t looking good.
— Clay Imoo (@CanuckClay) December 23, 2016
After the game, the bad news was confirmed.
#Canucks Jannik Hansen exits Rogers Arena with straight leg + heavy limp; says they don’t think it’s really bad but will have MRI tomorrow
— Kevin Woodley (@KevinisInGoal) December 23, 2016
This is obviously a big loss for the Canucks. Hansen was rounding into form since returning to the lineup on December 11, and he had three points in his previous two games. More importantly, he had the Sedins looking dangerous again.
We’ll hope for good news, even if it’s probably more realistic to expect the worst.
While Canucks forward Jake Virtanen continues to look for his game in Utica, Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers piles up the points. With his three points against the Canucks last night, Ehlers now has 29 points in 36 games this season. Contrast that to Virtanen, who has one point in 10 games this season.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) December 23, 2016
You’ll recall that Virtanen was GM Jim Benning’s first-ever Canucks draft pick at sixth overall in 2014. Meanwhile, Ehlers went three picks later at nine.
A few people on Twitter last night were lamenting a possible first line of Ehlers, Bo Horvat, and Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk has 18 points in 31 games for the Flames this season, and was selected one pick AFTER the Canucks chose defenceman Olli Juolevi.
And if you really feel like piling on, you’ll recall that the Winnipeg Jets leapfrogged the Canucks in the draft lottery and wound up with budding superstar Patrick Laine.
As the consummate optimist, I am hopeful that Virtanen will pan out (and that Juolevi will turn out to be a bonafide number one defenceman). Until then however, it’s easy to think “What If?”
After a red-hot start to December in which the Flames won six straight games, Calgary is in the middle of a cold streak having lost three of their last four contests. The Flames are hanging on to the final wild card spot, just one point ahead of both Nashville and Winnipeg.
Goaltender Chad Johnson has cooled down as well: he’s allowed 12 goals in his past three games. Just prior to that, he had allowed only nine goals over six games (all Flames wins).
Calgary’s top five scorers are a combined age of 107 years old: Johnny Gaudreau is 23, Sean Monahan is 22, Dougie Hamilton is 23, Matthew Tkachuk is 19, and Sam Bennett is 20.
Contrast that to the Canucks’ top 5 scorers (Sedin, Sedin, Horvat, Sutter, and Baertschi) and their combined age of 144 years.
While both the Flames and Canucks are trying to rebound from disastrous campaigns last year, it looks as if the Flames are better positioned to succeed in the near future.
The Flames have a lot of young legs and they will be the more rested team given their last game was Tuesday night. Expect them to out-skate their tired visitors on the way to a 4-2 victory.