It’s not often that you see a road team play back to back games in the same arena, but that’s exactly what we have on Thursday night as the Canucks and Jets battle each other one more time at Rogers Arena. The Canucks stole game one of this two-game series on the heels of a great goaltending performance from Jacob Markstrom. However, Ryan Miller will make a return to the Canucks crease tonight, despite the brilliance that Markstrom displayed last game.
Although it’s only December, this is a big game in the standings for the Canucks. Even though they are seemingly mired among the bottom teams in the league, the Canucks have a chance to pass the Jets in the standings with an outright win. They would tie them in points with a victory, and they would still have two games in hand on Winnipeg.
Despite their struggles, the Canucks are still only four points out of a wild-card spot. Still, it’s hard to believe this is a playoff team when they have an ugly -17 goal differential. They have also allowed the first goal in an alarming 25 games this season, including once again on Tuesday night against the Jets.
There is still a chance for the Canucks as long as they can find more ways to score. Jannik Hansen has been great since getting back into the lineup and had two goals against the Jets on Tuesday. He now has three goals in his last two games. With Sven Baertschi’s goal on Tuesday, he’s up to six points in his last four games. The Canucks need these secondary wingers to keep producing if they want to keep their playoff chances alive.
If the Jets want to keep their playoff chances alive, they need to improve their special teams play. Their 26th ranked power play and their 28th ranked penalty kill is severely hurting their playoff hopes right now. They did score a power play goal on Tuesday, and had some good looks in the third period.
Winnipeg Jets at Vancouver Canucks
Rogers Arena – 7 p.m. PST, 9 p.m. CST
Broadcast channels – TSN3, SN Canucks
2016-17 Season Series:
December 20, 2016 – Winnipeg Jets (1) – Vancouver Canucks (4)
Winnipeg Jets: 15-17-3, 33 points
Away Record: 5-11-2
Hot Players: Brian Little (4 PTS in last 5 GP), Blake Wheeler (3 PTS in last 3 GP, scored against Canucks on Tuesday)
Key Injuries: Shawn Matthias, Joel Armia, Tyler Myers
Vancouver Canucks – 14-16-3 – 31 Points
Home Record: 10-5-2
Hot Players: Jannik Hansen (3 goals in last 2 GP), Sven Baertschi (6 PTS in last 4 GP)
Key Injuries: Erik Gudbranson, Philip Larsen, Alexander Edler, Derek Dorsett
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1)Goaltending was supposed to be a strength for Vancouver heading into the season, but both Miller and Markstrom have seen their numbers dip compared to last season. Markstrom turned in a solid performance against the Jets, but Desjardins has pegged Miller as the starter for tonight’s matchup. The decision puts pressure on Miller to play as well as Markstrom did on Tuesday night.
2)All the talk in Vancouver heading into Tuesday’s matchup was about Patrik Laine. He showed some jump on his first shift by drawing an interference penalty against Ben Hutton on his first shift. Although he didn’t score, he was a noticeable force on the ice. It’s hard for Canucks fans not to think about how different this team would look if the draft lottery went a little bit differently.
3)After going cold on their recent road trip, it looks like the line of Bo Horvat, Baertschi, and Alex Burrows have found their rhythm again. They have a combined nine points in their last three games, and both Horvat and Baertschi scored again on Tuesday.
4)The Jets will look to recapture some of their success they had against the Canucks last season in Thursday’s rematch. They swept the season series against the Canucks last year and won all three games by a combined score of 11-3. In one of those games, the Jets were up on the Canucks at Rogers Arena 5-0 before the Canucks earned back some respect with two late third period goals. One of those goals was from Jake Virtanen, which was the last time he scored a goal for the club.
5)The Canucks aren’t really missing Erik Gudbranson with the return of Chris Tanev to the lineup. Tanev is a rock on the Canucks blueline, and maybe it isn’t a coincidence that they have gone 2-0-1 since he returned to the lineup. He’s even chipped in with two assists in three games since returning. He will face off against his brother, Brandon Tanev, once again at Rogers Arena tonight.