VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks (32-22-6) wrap up their longest homestand of the season when they host the league-leading Boston Bruins (39-11-12) tonight at Rogers Arena. The Canucks start the night third in the Pacific Division just two points back of Vegas and one behind Edmonton, but also just a single point ahead of Winnipeg and two up on Calgary – the two teams currently holding down the Wild Card spots in the Western Conference.
The Canucks have dropped back to back games to Anaheim and Minnesota and are 2-4-2 in their last eight contests. In their last outing on Wednesday night, the team fell 4-3 to the Wild in a five round shootout. JT Miller scored twice and Jay Beagle had his first goal of the season on home ice while Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced. Markstrom gets the start again tonight while Oscar Fantenberg replaces Jordie Benn on defense. Fantenberg has missed the past five games with a concussion.
Miller is holding the hot hand offensively for the Canucks these days with eight goals in his last 12 games. Tyler Toffoli collected an assist, registered four shots on goal and logged 18:52 in his Canucks debut after being acquired from Los Angeles on Monday night.
Quinn Hughes had a pair of helpers on Wednesday giving him 3+10=13 in 11 games since the All Star break. With that total, the 20-year-old rookie leads all NHL defensemen in scoring since January 18th.
Secondary scoring has become an issue for the Canucks of late. Captain Bo Horvat has just one goal in his past 10 games, has 1+1=2 in his last nine and has not scored at 5-on-5 since a game in Minnesota on January 12th. Horvat has a pair of power play goals and an empty netter in his last 14 outings. Tanner Pearson has 2+0=2 in his past nine games while Jake Virtanen has 1+0=1 in his last nine and Loui Eriksson has gone nine straight without a point.
The Bruins roll into Vancouver as the top team in the NHL with 90 points. They have a five point cushion on Tampa Bay and are 10 points in front of the next closest teams in the standings. Boston has won five straight and 11 of its last 12 after a 4-3 victory in Calgary last night.
Patrice Bergeron scored twice while Brad Marchand and Charlie Coyle had the others as the Bruins trailed 2-0 just 2:34 into the game and 3-1 at the 3:23 mark in a wild start at the Saddledome. Jaroslav Halak made 18 saves as Boston outshot Calgary 23-21.
David Pastrnak did not find the back of the net, but picked up a pair of assists last night. So Pastrnak starts the day tied with Auston Matthews for the league-lead with 43 goals and leads the league with 18 power play markers. The 23-year-old Czech winger sits second in overall league scoring with 43+43=86. Brad Marchand is second in team scoring with 24+53=77 while Patrice Bergeron is third with 29+24=53. Bergeron has six goals on a five-game goal scoring streak and 7+3=10 on a seven-game point streak.
No matter how you cut it, the Bruins are among the league leaders in a number of statistical categories. They are the best defensive team in the NHL allowing 143 goals on the season or an average of 2.31 per game. The team is sixth in goals scored (205), second on the power play (25.0%), third on the penalty kill (84.3%) and seventh in face-offs (51.1%).
The Canucks will face Tuukka Rask in goal tonight. He sports a 23-5-6 record and among NHL netminders who have appeared in 10 games this season, Rask leads the league in both goals against average (2.04) and save percentage (93.2%).
During their run of 11 wins in 12 games, the Bruins have outscored opponents 39-17. Oddly, their lone loss during that stretch was to the last place Detroit Red Wings. As part of this run, the Bruins beat the Canucks 4-0 on February 4th in Boston.
The Bruins are 9-1-1 against Pacific Division opponents so far this season.
POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP
POSSIBLE BRUINS LINE-UP