VANCOUVER – Help is on the way for the Vancouver Canucks (6-5) when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins (5-1-2) tonight at Rogers Arena. Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser both return to the line-up and will play on a line with Nikolay Goldobin.
Petterson has missed six games with a concussion suffered two weeks ago tonight in Florida. In his absence, the Canucks have gone 3-3 with all three victories coming beyond regulation time. The team has scored 11 goals in those six games and has not scored more than two goals in regulation in any of them. They’ve also managed just one power play goal in his absence. Boeser missed two games with a nagging groin issue that he says tracks back to the night he scored the overtime winner in Pittsburgh on October 16th.
In his brief NHL career, Boeser has scored six goals in three games against the Penguins including a hat trick at home a year ago.
After splitting a quick road trip to Las Vegas and Arizona, the Canucks open their first true homestand of the season tonight. The Canucks have started the season with eight of their opening 11 games on the road including a 4-1 loss in Arizona in their last outing on Thursday night. That night, they played without Pettersson, Boeser, Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Sven Baertschi and Jay Beagle. Tanev (hip) skated with the team on Saturday morning, but will not play tonight. With Petterson and Boeser returning, it looks like Darren Archibald and Adam Gaudette will come out of the line-up.
Travis Green said this morning that Edler’s injury will keep him out of the line-up for weeks – although he wouldn’t get more specific than that. With Edler out, Ben Hutton has stepped up logging a season-high 29:25 in Vegas on Wednesday and a team-high 24:33 the following night in Glendale. Troy Stecher had an assist on Archibald’s goal on Thursday and now has a career-best four game point streak.
The Canucks have surrendered the first goal of the game in nine of their past 10 outings. They are 2-0 this season when scoring first. Both of those games were at home against Calgary on opening night and against Boston last Saturday.
After backing-up in Arizona, Jacob Markstrom returns to the net tonight. He has posted back to back victories over Boston and Vegas allowing just three goals and stopping 66 of 69 those in those two games.
The Penguins arrive in Vancouver after thumping the Flames 9-1 in Calgary on Thursday.
Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist each scored twice while Sidney Crosby and Derrick Brassard each had three points. Brassard, however, will not play tonight due to an lower body injury.
Pittsburgh has scored 15 goals in its last two games including a 6-5 O/T win in Edmonton on Tuesday. The Pens roll into town on a three-game win streak and since a 5-1 loss to Montreal in the second game of the season, they have picked up points in six straight (4-0-2).
Matt Murray has been in goal for each of the victories on the three-game win streak. He was the back-up when these teams met in Pittsburgh, but returned the following game and posted a 3-0 shutout in Toronto to start the road trip. He is 4-1 on the season. But it looks like Casey DeSmith gets the start in goal tonight. He has not played since facing the Canucks 11 days ago.
Evgeni Malkin leads the Penguins with 15 points while Phil Kessel is their top sniper with six goals. Crosby scored his first two goals of the season in Edmonton and added another in Calgary. He has half of his 10 points on the season in the past two outings. Crosby has been held off the scoresheet only twice this season – and one of those games was against the Canucks. Malkin is on a six-game point streak.
Pittsburgh’s special teams are off to a quick start. The Penguins are third in the NHL on the power play (35%) and fourth overall on the penalty kill (86.4%).