Canucks staying focused on their game, not the standings
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks (32-32-10) shoot for their first four-game win streak of the season tonight when they host the Pacific Division and Western Conference leading Calgary Flames (46-21-7) at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks followed up wins in Dallas and Chicago with a 7-4 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday night. Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson each scored twice while Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen and Loui Eriksson also scored for the Canucks. The line of Horvat, Pearson and Eriksson combined for 10 points on the night. The Canucks scored a pair of power play goals giving them their first multi-PPG game since Jan. 2nd – also against the Senators. The Canucks are 5-for-16 (31.3 per cent) with the man-advantage in their past five games.
With his goal, Brock Boeser extended his career-high point streak to eight games (three goals, six assists) while Horvat has four goals and five assists in his past six games. Horvat has three goals in his past two outings and has matched Elias Pettersson for the team lead in goals with 27.
The Canucks are 4-0-1 in their past five games and 4-1-1 in their past seven on home ice. They begin action tonight five points back of Minnesota in the race for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Jacob Markstrom gave up four third-period goals on Wednesday, but still managed to preserve the win. He is 3-0-1 in his past four starts and 5-2-2 in his last nine. Markstrom will make his 57th start of the season tonight. Only Devan Dubnyk (61) and Marc-Andre Fleury (59) have started more.
The Canucks will use the same 18 skaters they’ve gone with to produce the three straight wins. That means Nikolay Goldobin, Ryan Spooner, Sven Baertschi, Derrick Pouliot and Josh Teves will be healthy scratches once again. Rookie Quinn Hughes skated on his own early this morning after getting medical clearance yesterday. With no practice slated until Wednesday, it’s unlikely Hughes will make his NHL debut before Thursday night against Los Angeles or possibly next Saturday versus Dallas.
The Flames arrive in Vancouver on the heels of a 5-1 romp over Ottawa on Thursday. Matthew Tkachuk, Mark Giordano, Mikael Backlund, Garnet Hathaway and Andrew Mangiapane had the Calgary goals while Mike Smith, who will start again tonight, made 18 saves in goal. Tkachuk and Mangiapane have both scored in back to back games while Giordano has one goals and six assists on a six-game point streak.
The Flames have won two straight and five of their last six. A single point in the standings tonight will give Calgary 100 on the season with seven games still to go beyond this one.
Only three teams in the league have more than Calgary’s 21 road wins this season. The Flames enter play tonight with a record of 21-14-2 away from the Saddledome. However they have dropped their past three games as the visitors at Vegas, Arizona and Winnipeg.
Johnny Gaudreau leads the Flames in goals (35), assists (57) and points (92). He sits sixth overall in league scoring. The Flames have four players – Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk -- with more than 70 points and Mark Giordano is sitting with 69. The Flames captain trails only San Jose’s Brent Burns in scoring among NHL defensemen. At the age of 35, Giordano has already crushed his previous personal best for points in a season when he had 56 in 2015-16.
Veteran forward James Neal returns tonight after missing the past 17 games with an upper-body injury. He last suited up on Feb. 14th in Florida. The last time he played in Vancouver on Feb. 9th he lost eight teeth courtesy of an errant Alex Biega stick.
The Flames are among the best teams in the league when getting the jump on their opponents. They are 34-4-1 when opening the scoring this season.
The Canucks are 3-1 against the Flames this season winning both games played so far in Vancouver. They were 5-2 winners on opening night and then posted a 4-3 shootout victory on Feb. 9th. Markstrom made 44 saves that to lead the Canucks to victory. Elias Pettersson leads all skaters in the season-series with four goals and four assists.
POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP
POSSIBLE FLAMES LINE-UP