Every NHL team strives to head into the Christmas break on a high note. With the season kicking into an extra gear after the holidays, each team wants to feel good about their efforts as the season transitions into the second half.
The Canucks should feel anything but good about their performance as the year winds to a close. With 31 points overall, the Canucks are 28th overall in the NHL, exactly where they finished at the end of last season. They were actually four points better after the Christmas break at this time last year, albeit with one extra game played.
On their last game before the holidays, the Canucks put forth one of their worst efforts of 2016. They lost 4-1 to the Flames in a game where they never even competed. They finished with a paltry 14 shots and left Jacob Markstrom out to dry as he made 33 saves in a losing effort.
Now, the Canucks must take on a Kings team who is clinging onto the final Wild Card spot with 38 points. The Canucks were enjoying a perfect 4-0 start to the season before the Kings beat them 4-3 in a shootout back in October. That game was the first loss in a nine-game losing streak for the Canucks, who have never really recovered since that brutal stretch of games.
Willie Desjardins’ answer to the Canucks woes for tonight? Putting Jayson Megna with the Sedins. Megna has three points in 18 games with the Canucks, but for some reason Desjardins believes he could be the best fit on this line. Apparently he’s a better choice than their $36 million winger.
Megna on starting on the top line: "I'm super excited to skate with the Sedins. I was on their line when I scored 2 goals in Tampa Bay."
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 28, 2016
Los Angeles Kings at Vancouver Canucks
Rogers Arena – 7 p.m. PST
Broadcast Channels: SN, FS-W
Season Series: October 22, 2016 – Canucks 3, Kings 4 (SO)
Los Angeles Kings: 17-13-4
Road Record: 7-9-3
Hot Players: Peter Budaj, Jeff Carter
Key Injuries: Jonathan Quick, Brayden McNabb and Tyler Toffoli
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Devin Setoguchi
Dwight King – Nic Dowd – Trevor Lewis
Andy Andreoff – Nick Shore – Jordan Nolan
Derek Forbort – Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin – Alec Martinez
Kevin Gravel – Tom Gilbert
Vancouver Canucks: 14-18-3
Home Record: 10-6-2
Hot Players: Bo Horvat
Key Injuries: Jannik Hansen, Erik Gudbranson, Derek Dorsett
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Jayson Megna
Markus Granlund – Brandon Sutter – Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Alex Burrows
Brendan Gaunce – Michael Chaput – Jack Skille
Ben Hutton – Chris Tanev
Alex Edler – Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa – Nikita Tryamkin
1) Anze Kopitar hasn’t put up points at his usual pace so far this season, with only three goals and 16 points in 29 games. However, 1B centre Jeff Carter has picked up the slack in Kopitar’s offensive hiatus. Carter has 19 goals and 29 points this season and will play on a line with Tanner Pearson and Devin Setoguchi with Tyler Toffoli out of the lineup.
2) Even though Kopitar has had a slow season offensively, the Canucks definitely have to keep tabs on him out on the ice. Dating back to last season, Kopitar has nine points in his last six games against the Canucks.
3) Vancouver watched L.A. ruin their four-game win streak back in October. It eventually turned into a nine game losing streak which sent them plummeting down the NHL standings. Can the Canucks reverse their fortunes and get back on a winning streak heading into this game? After losing two straight games by the score of 4-1, the Canucks need a much better effort from everyone in their lineup. They are currently seven points back of the Kings for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
4) With Jannik Hansen back on the sidelines for the Canucks with a knee injury, Desjardins has opted to put Megna on a line with the Sedin twins instead of Loui Eriksson. Eriksson sure could use a boost from the Sedins since he is mired in another long goal drought, this one at 12 games. Megna only has three points in 18 games this season, but he did score two goals in one game while playing on a line with the Sedins.
5) Goaltending was supposed to be a strength for the Canucks, but both of their goaltenders are in the bottom half of the league in each major statistical category. The Kings, on the other hand, are enjoying some surprising success from Peter Budaj, who has a 2.04 GAA and a .919 save percentage in Jonathan Quick’s absence. This speaks volumes to their stout defence who once again have the Kings as one of the best shot-attempt differential teams in the league at even-strength. The Canucks are currently sitting 21st overall in that category at 48.9%.
6) It appears as if Alex Edler will return to the lineup tonight for the first time since November 26 against the Colorado Avalanche. His return will likely mean that Alex Biega moves up to the press box. It’s not clear yet where Edler will play, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him reunited with Troy Stecher. The two defencemen formed a solid pairing earlier in the season. Edler’s usual partner, Chris Tanev, has been playing effectively in a pairing with Ben Hutton. Hutton has played his best hockey ever since being put on a pairing with Tanev.