The Vancouver Canucks (29-32-9) will chase consecutive victories for the first time in two months when they host the New Jersey Devils (26-36-9) tonight at Rogers Arena. The Canucks last won back to back games on January 18th and 20th against Buffalo and Detroit.
The Canucks return to action following a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night. Tyler Motte scored a pair of goals 11 seconds apart midway through the second period. They were his first goals in 18 games since a goal in Colorado on February 2nd. Brock Boeser scored for a second straight game. His power play goal opened the scoring and was the first time in seven games the Canucks played with a lead. In his 200th NHL game, Jake Virtanen sealed the victory with an empty netter. All four Canuck goals on the night were scored by right wingers.
The win came at a price though. Sparkplug Antoine Roussel suffered a season-ending knee injury on the play leading to Motte’s second goal. The feisty winger picked up an assist on the goal so his first season in Vancouver ends with a career-high 31 points (9+22).
With Roussel out, Loui Eriksson returns to the line-up after being a healthy scratch on Wednesday. Eriksson has one goal in his last 20 games and tonight will play on a line with Bo Horvat and Nikolay Goldobin.
Jacob Markstrom responded strongly to his first hook of the season last Saturday against Vegas by stopping 20 of the 21 Ranger shots he faced. Markstrom picked up his 25th win of the season and moved into sole possession of fifth place on the Canucks all-time goalie wins list with 73.
Elias Pettersson has gone 11 games since scoring a goal in Los Angeles on February 14th and has just one goal in his past 15 games. He was held off the scoresheet by the Rangers so he remains at 58 points on the season. The young Swede needs just two more points to tie the Canucks rookie scoring record shared by Pavel Bure and Ivan Hlinka. Pettersson is currently one back of Trevor Linden who had 59 points in his first season in the NHL.
As a team, the Canucks need 30 goals over their final 12 games to match the 218 goals they scored last year.
Like the Canucks, the Devils are searching for back to back wins after a 6-3 victory in Edmonton on Wednesday. That win snapped a seven-game winless skid (0-6-1). Kenny Agostino, Damon Severson and Kevin Rooney each had a goal and an assist against the Oilers. Travis Zajac, John Quenneville and Blake Coleman had the other goals. Coleman has now scored in three straight games. New Jersey scored twice on the power play and once while short-handed in Edmonton. Former Canuck Cory Schneider made 36 saves in the victory.
After going more than a year between wins, Schneider is 5-3-1 in his last eight starts. In his career against the Canucks, Schneider, who turns 33 on Monday, is 6-1-2 giving up 16 goals in those nine games during which he has posted a 1.76 GAA and 93.8% save percentage. Despite those numbers, Schneider will start tonight on the bench while Mackenzie Blackwood gets the start. Blackwood blanked the Canucks on December 31st, but gave up nine goals in his last outing in a 9-4 loss in Calgary on Tuesday night.
The Devils victory in Edmonton was just the team’s ninth road win of the season. That matches Ottawa for the league low. New Jersey is 9-24-3 away from home this season and is 1-5 in its last six on the road and 2-7 in the past nine.
Kyle Palmieri leads the Devils in goals (27), power play goals (11) and points (50).
Due to a rash of injuries including last year’s Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier, 2015 sixth overall pick Pavel Zacha and veteran defenseman Sami Vatanen, the Devils have been forced to use 40 different players this season. Only Anaheim and Ottawa have used more players this season. Tonight, the Devils will surpass the 300-man games lost to injury threshold.
The Devils have surrendered 240 goals this year which is the fourth highest total in the NHL behind Detroit (241), Chicago (259) and Ottawa (260). Since Christmas, the 117 goals the Devils have given up is two off the league lead -- Buffalo and Detroit have both allowed 119.
The Devils defeated the Canucks 4-0 in Newark on New Year’s Eve. Four different Devils scored on Anders Nilsson that afternoon in what was Nilsson’s final game as a Canuck. He was traded to Ottawa two days later.
POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP
POSSIBLE DEVILS LINE-UP