VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks (26-18-4) play their final game ahead of a week-long All Star break when they host the San Jose Sharks (21-24-4) tonight at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks have won seven straight on home ice following a 3-1 victory over Arizona on Thursday. Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Tanner Pearson scored for Vancouver while Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves in goal. The Canucks are 10-2 in their last 12 games at home and overall the team is 9-3 in its last 12 outings.
Markstrom, who has started 16 of the past 18 games, gets a night off tonight as Thatcher Demko gets his first start since a 5-2 loss in Florida on January 9th. Sidelined with a concussion for two weeks prior to Christmas, Demko has started just two games since December 7th. That will be the only line-up change for the Canucks tonight.
Horvat has four goals in his last four games and a team-leading 7+7=14 in his last 11. His goal on Thursday came on a first period power play and was the first time he’d cashed in with the man-advantage since November 21st in Nashville. It was also the captain’s first home power play goal of the season. That goal gives the Canucks 42 power play goals in 48 games. Their next one will match the team’s power play output from all of last season.
With his goal, Virtanen established a new career-high for points in a season with 26 (14+12). Elias Pettersson collected a pair of assists on Thursday and now has a team-leading 50 points on the season (21+29). It was his 14th multi-point game of the season.
JT Miller remains second in team scoring with 45 points, but has just one goal in his last seven games and three in his past 18.
The Sharks arrive in town after a 4-0 loss in Colorado on Thursday. Martin Jones stopped 34 of the 38 shots he faced as the team was blanked for the second time this season. San Jose has dropped two straight and four of six (2-3-1). Since December 1st, the Sharks are just 6-12-3 and their 15 points in that time leaves them 30th in the NHL ahead of only Detroit (11). San Jose is 2-7-2 in its last 11 on the road and 8-13-3 as the visitors this season.
The Sharks are without leading scorer and captain Logan Couture who is out indefinitely with a broken ankle. In his absence, three Sharks are tied for the team lead in scoring with 35 points: Evander Kane has 19+16, Tomas Hertl has 15+20 and Erik Karlsson has 5+30. Ten of Kane’s 19 goals have come on the power play.
Tonight Joe Thornton will move into sole possession of 10th all-time in games played appearing in his 1616th NHL regular season contest. He enters the night tied with Larry Murphy at 1615. Patrick Marleau, who has suited up for 1702 NHL games, will face the Canucks for the 85th time in his career tonight. Thornton and Marleau, both 40, were the top two picks in the 1997 NHL draft – before either Elias Pettersson (1998) or Quinn Hughes (1999) were born.
San Jose is a team of extremes. The Sharks have the best penalty killing in the league at 88.0%, however they are the only team in the league with a 5-on-5 save percentage below 90% starting the night at 89.5%.
Bob Boughner replaced Peter DeBoer behind the San Jose bench on December 11th. In 16 games since the coaching the change, the Sharks are 6-8-2.
This is the third of five meetings between these teams this season and the first here in Vancouver. The Canucks beat the Sharks 5-2 on November 2nd while San Jose prevailed 4-2 on December 14th. The teams will meet again on January 29th at SAP Center and before the Sharks return to Rogers Arena on March 25th.
POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP
POSSIBLE SHARKS LINE-UP