It should be an emotional night at Rogers Arena tonight as defenceman Mattias Ohlund will be inducted into the Ring of Honour prior to puck drop.
The Canucks will play Ohlund’s other former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, for the second time in eight days.
Vancouver defeated the Lightning 5-1 in Tampa on December 8, but they’ve dropped three straight games since. Meanwhile, the Lightning have split their last two games, losing to Pittsburgh before beating Calgary to open up their three-game swing through Western Canada.
Vancouver Canucks (12-16-2, 26 points) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (15-13-2, 32 points)
Venue: Rogers Arena, Vancouver
Time: 7 pm PT
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: TSN 1040
|Goals for||2.33 (24th)||2.83 (10th)|
|Goals against||3.10 (28th)||2.77 (17th)|
|Power play %||13.5 (28th)||22.2 (6th)|
|Penalty kill %||82.9 (12th)||79.4 (23rd)|
|Shots for||29.4 (17th)||30.2 (12th)|
|Shots against||30.6 (17th)||30.8 (19th)|
|Faceoff %||51.0 (9th)||49.5 (17th)|
Erik Gudbranson is being evaluated, not sure if he plays tonight. Tanev in, Miller starts. #Canucks
— Irfaan Gaffar (@sportsnetirf) December 16, 2016
Chris Tanev returns from injury tonight, playing his first game since November 2nd. Erik Gudbranson could be a scratch tonight, with what head coach Willie Desjardins says is injury related, despite the fact he was at practice yesterday.
Brendan Gaunce will be a healthy scratch, while Ryan Miller gets a chance to rebound from Tuesday’s performance in Carolina.
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Hansen|
It’s fitting that on the night the Canucks honour the best defenceman in franchise history, they will get best current blueliner back; as Chris Tanev makes his much-anticipated return to the Canucks lineup. He has been out since November 2 with an ankle injury.
Chris Tanev talks about his injury, how excited he is to rejoin his teammates on the ice and provides an update on his status. pic.twitter.com/DC7LPKR7CP
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 15, 2016
Tanev actually injured the ankle back in October and he ended up missing three games at the end of October before returning to play Montreal on November 2. While logging just under 21 minutes of ice time in that game, Tanev re-aggravated the injury and hasn’t played since.
The Canucks will welcome Tanev back with open arms, especially having allowed a whopping 15 goals in their last three games. Tanev will never be an offensive threat, but he is a steadying force on the blue line and he will bring a sense of calm to the young defence.
It’s interesting to note that both the Lightning and Canucks are technically the same distance away from the playoffs (by points) but their situations seem radically different.
By standings, the Lightning are seven points back of a playoff spot heading into tonight’s game. But that’s slightly misleading due to the surprising strength of the Metropolitan Division, where five teams have at least 39 points. Truly, the Lightning are only three points back of both Ottawa and Boston in their own Atlantic Division. Also, there are no other teams for them to leap frog to get into a playoff position (they’re in ninth in the Eastern Conference).
Contrast that to the Canucks, who technically are only six points out of a playoff position. However, they would have to beat out another Pacific Division team, as currently five of the eight playoff teams are from the Pacific Division.
Pundits often use the benchmarks of US Thanksgiving and Christmas as indicators as to which teams will be battling for playoff positioning come the spring. You don’t need to be a pundit to know that the Canucks absolutely must make some ground up over the next three weeks if they want to have a hope of making the playoffs (nine of their next 11 games are at home).
The undisputed leader of the Tampa Bay blue line is Victor Hedman. The big Swede was the second overall draft pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. He is remarkably consistent and he’s an outstanding playoff performer, having amassed 14 points in each of the last two postseason campaigns.
Hedman hit two milestones in the Lightning’s 6-3 win over the Flames on Wednesday night: he scored his 250th career point in his 500th career game. This perfect half point per game in his career is yet another testament to his consistency.
On NHL.com, Hedman spoke about the influence Mattias Ohlund had on him early on when the two were teammates in Tampa.
“He was a rock for me and taught me a lot. His whole family has been great to me and my family. Unfortunately he didn’t play here more than a couple of years, but he still helped me so much. He was a tremendous player, the hardest hitter I’ve ever seen. Having him around to teach how to conduct myself during practice and prepare for the game was so important in my career.”
On these special recognition nights, teams usually have either have a very strong game or a very poor one. The Canucks should be both inspired and motivated after their embarrassing loss in Carolina on Tuesday night.
Let’s go with a 4-3 Canucks win, with Sven Baertschi netting the game-winner.