Just 24 hours after disposing of the Arizona Coyotes in a 1-0 win at Rogers Arena, the Canucks travel to California to play the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center.
This is their third meeting in the preseason. The teams split the first two games, with Vancouver winning 1-0 on September 21 and San Jose prevailing 4-0 on September 22.
Game Time: 7:30 pm
TV: Sportsnet One
With only three games remaining in the preseason, the coaching staff is going to have to start making some decisions with respect to their anticipated opening night roster. As well, tonight’s game will be a good test for the younger players who also played last night in Vancouver. The back-to-back games (with travel) will test their conditioning and their mental preparedness.
1. Looking for some offence
In their five preseason games, the Canucks have scored a total of just six goals. And of those six goals, only one has come from a roster player from last season (Bo Horvat).
The other goal scorers are Adam Cracknell, Jake Virtanen, Brendan Gaunce, Alex Friesen, and Jared McCann. While this bodes well for the future (see next point), it doesn’t ease the fears of some fans that this team will have trouble scoring.
Yes, it’s only the preseason. And yes, most of the veterans have only played two or three games so far – and not always with their anticipated linemates.
Let’s hope that it won’t take too long into the regular season for guys like Sutter, Vrbata, Burrows, Hansen, and Baertschi to light the lamp. Oh yeah, and the Sedins too.
2. The battle for spots continues
When Chris Higgins went down with an injury last week, it vacated an opening night roster spot for a forward. The collective thinking is that 11 of the 13 forward spots are locked up for opening night: Sedins, Burrows, Vrbata, Baertschi, Sutter, Horvat, Hansen, Dorsett, Prust, and Vey.
Right now, it looks like a four-horse race for two roster spots, with Virtanen, McCann, Gaunce, and Kenins battling to play on October 7. All four guys have looked good this preseason, with three of the four of them even scoring a goal.
One might argue that McCann’s strong play could mean he unseats Linden Vey for the fourth-line centre role to start the season. Perhaps that was who coach Willie Desjardins was referring to after last night’s game:
“If guys deserve it, we have to get them in the line-up; McCann and Hutton are doing that” – Desjardins #Canucks
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) September 29, 2015
Desjardins went on to say, “Others guys have to step up and play better. McCann and Hutton are making guys have to play better; their spots are in jeopardy.”
3. Making his mark
Goaltender Jacob Markstrom had a strong outing last night, stopping all 32 shots he faced, including 15 in a busy second period. He looked calm, cool, and collected in turning away the Coyotes all night.
He was also calm, cool, and collected with reporters after the game, cracking smiles and tossing in an occasional one-liner.
Remind you of another affable Swedish goalie?
The Canucks will need a big year from Markstrom, and they hope that his NHL stats become more like his AHL stats (and less like his previous NHL stats). Look for Markstrom to get one of the remaining preseason games, likely against the Oilers this Thursday.
We won’t know line combinations until the warm-up, but here is the roster the Canucks are sending to San Jose.
Ever the optimist, I’m tempted to pick a Canucks win. But with the Sharks expected to dress a veteran line-up and the Canucks coming off a game the night before, I’m reluctantly going with a 3-2 Sharks win. But I hope I’m wrong.