Goaltending will be the focus when the Vancouver Canucks (25-25-7) open a three-game California road trip tonight against the struggling Anaheim Ducks (21-26-9) at Honda Center.
The Canucks will go with Jacob Markstrom in net two days after he was unable to play in Monday’s game due to back spasms. Newcomer Marek Mazanec, who was acquired yesterday from the New York Rangers for a 2020 seventh round draft pick, arrived in Anaheim this morning and is slated to back up tonight. Mazanec has been recalled from on an emergency basis allowing the Canucks to keep Michael DiPietro on the roster in case Markstrom’s back issues flare up again.
With DiPietro making his first NHL start on Monday, the Canucks got shelled 7-2 by San Jose. Bo Horvat and Derrick Pouliot scored the Vancouver goals. Horvat has scored in back to back games and has reached the 20-goal mark for the second consecutive season. He’s just two goals shy of matching his career-high of 22 set in 64 games last season. Pouliot’s goal was his third of the season and the 20th by a Canuck defenseman. The group scored 21 all of last season. Monday’s goal was Pouliot’s first since he scored here in Anaheim on November 21st.
On Tuesday, the Canucks recalled centre Adam Gaudette from Utica. Last year’s Hobey Baker Award winner has appeared in 32 games with the Canucks this season and has scored in 2 of his last 4 NHL games including his last game on January 10th against Arizona.
Gaudette skated with Zack MacEwen and Markus Granlund this morning. It appears he’ll replace Nikolay Goldobin in the Canuck line-up.
Tonight is the start of a three games in four night trek through the Golden State. The Canucks are 0-2-1 in their past three road games and 1-4-1 in their last six.
The Ducks start a new era tonight with General Manager Bob Murray behind the bench. With the team in a free fall on a seven-game losing streak and with just two victories in its past 21 (2-15-4), Randy Carlyle was relieved of his duties on Sunday. Murray has never coached in the National Hockey League but said he felt it was necessary to go behind the bench to get a sense of what’s wrong with the hockey club he has built.
Anaheim fell 6-2 in Philadelphia in its last outing on Saturday in Randy Carlyle’s final game as head coach. Adam Henrique and Nick Ritchie scored the Ducks goals and rookie Kevin Boyle made 24 saves in relief in his NHL debut. He will make his first NHL start this evening with former Canuck Ryan Miller serving as the back-up.
The numbers are shocking. The Ducks have been outscored 37-8 on their seven-game skid and 82-34 over their past 21 since December 18th. Perhaps the most-bizarre statistic is that the 21-game tailspin came immediately on the heels of a 9-1 stretch for the Ducks from November 27th to December 17th.
Anaheim is the lowest-scoring team in the league with 124 goals – 10 goals behind the Los Angeles Kings. Hardly a surprise, the Ducks are 29th in the league on the power play at 14.9% and ahead of only Montreal and Nashville. The Ducks are tied with Ottawa and New Jersey with the fewest wins in the league this season (21).
Jakob Silfverberg leads the team with 12 goals while captain Ryan Getzlaf leads the Ducks in scoring with 36 points. He is the only player on the roster with more than 30 points this season.
Perhaps no one illustrates the plight of the Ducks better than former Canuck Ryan Kesler who has 4+2=6 in 48 games this season and is currently mired in a 22-game pointless stretch dating back to an assist on December 2nd at Washington. Kesler, who is 11 games away from 1,000 in his NHL career, has not scored in his last 35 games since November 6th against LA.
Michael Del Zotto has appeared in six games for the Ducks after being acquired from the Canucks on January 17th. Between the Canucks struggles earlier in the season and Anaheim’s troubles of late, Del Zotto has tasted victory just once in the last 20 games he’s appeared in (1-17-2) – when Vancouver won in LA on November 24th.
Tonight is just the Ducks second game on The Pond since January 11th. They had a pair of five-game road trips separated by just a single home appearance against St. Louis on January 23rd. Their last home win was December 12th against Dallas. Overall, the team has two victories in the last 57 days.
The Ducks beat the Canucks 4-3 in the lone meeting between the teams so far this season. Anaheim still has to make a pair of visits to Vancouver over the final two months of the schedule.
POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP
POSSIBLE DUCKS LINE-UP