VANCOUVER CANUCKS: 26-13-3 (55 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 20-13-8 (48 PTS.)
GAME TIME: 7:30 P.M. EST.
OPPOSITION SITE: THE CAUNCK WAY
In a rare matchup against a Western Conference foe, the Florida Panthers will attempt to right the ship that has gone a bit off course as the Vancouver Canucks come to town. With a record of 2-5-1 in their previous eight games that includes a 5-2 pasting against the New Jersey Devils on Friday night, Florida looks to get themselves back on track with the next three home games. In order for that to happen though there are a few scenarios that must correct themselves. As I discussed in yesterday’s Sunday Conversation, the FlashMob Line is in a funk. Stephen Weiss hasn’t scored a goal in 12 games, Kris Versteeg has no points in his last four, and the Panthers have lost three of their past four games.
With injuries and a rigorous schedule catching up to them, there’s no room for excuses since no team is going to take it easy against these Cats who have surprised everyone in the NHL up to this point. The Panthers lead in the Southeast Division has dwindled to three points over the Winnipeg Jets, and four points over the Washington Capitals during their recent “slump”. For tonight’s game Florida will have to play very smart, and avoid any kind of physical retaliation against the Canucks agitating ways. Staying out of the penalty box is paramount to any success, and converting any chance they get on the power play will factor in the outcome of this game.
Even though this is a matchup of two teams that rarely play each other, I seriously doubt that it will be difficult for Florida to be ready. Versteeg, Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and the recently acquired John Madden all have some history against the Canucks, and their determination will clearly resonate throughout the dressing room of the Panthers. This game could get chippy, and it could be a heck of a lot more interesting than you might imagine due to the former battles these players have had with each other.
With Mikael Samuelsson and Marcel Goc returning to the lineup from injuries, the Panthers will get a boost to secondary scoring, which is much needed especially with the top line having hit the skids. The defence will have to be strong in this game and win the battles not only in the corners, but in front of the net. We’ve discussed this many times throughout the season, and find that in games that we’ve had difficulty winning, one of the causes was traffic in the crease. The defence needs to be able to muscle the opposition out of the way. At the same time, the team has to collectively be physical against Vancouver. They don’t like being pushed and bumped around. If this Panthers team can find a way to not only play a puck possession style, but also to bump the Canucks every chance they get, they’ll be one step closer to having the edge in the outcome. In addition, the Panthers need to select a handful of players to stand in the crease to either block the view or to try for tip ins from long shots. It’s about time we do what other teams have been doing to us. Speaking of the crease, Scott Clemmensen gets the call for the Panthers tonight. Jacob Markstrom tweaked his knee in Saturday’s practice and Brian Foster has been recalled from the San Antonio Rampage to back up Clemmer.
The Canucks are coming to town riding high from the redemption victory over the Boston Bruins. While many Canuck followers wished their team had played that way in June, fact of the matter is that it was still a regular season game, and Boston still is the defending Cup champions. This is no time for a parade. The Canucks have been known for their regular season success, but have also been know for the playoff failures.
Vancouver ranks second in the league with 138 goals scored, led by Henrik Sedin who has 49 points (11-38) to lead the league. He’s followed by his
brother Daniel who has 47 points (18-29). In total the Canucks have seven players in double digits for goals scored, which includes ex-Panther Chris Higgins who has 10 goals on the year so far. All this scoring has been one of the main reasons that the Canucks are second in the entire NHL and first in the Western Conference with 55 points. They are also on a 7-2-1 stretch in their last 10 games.
Backup goaltender Cory Schneider who played the Bruins game on Saturday has been a brick wall as of late carrying a 7-1-0 record in his past eight games with a 1.79 GAA and .948 save percentage in his previous eight games. Roberto Luongo will get the start tonight as confirmed by Daily Faceoff, began the season slowly, suffered an injury early in the season, however since his return is 10-2-2 with a 1.76 GAA, and two shutouts in his past 14 games. In four games against the Panthers since his trade to Vancouver in 2006, Luongo is 3-0-1 with a 1.68 GAA that includes a shutout victory last February where Lou made 31 saves. These teams don’t play each other often but you have to go all the way back to 1999 to find a regulation loss for the Canucks against the Panthers as they are 8-0-1 with two ties since then.
This is the return of David Booth to Florida, however the injured winger will not be in the lineup as he’s still recovering from a sprained right knee. Booth has been out of action since December 6th. Sami Salo who was injured on this play Saturday against Boston is now suffering from a concussion as a result of the hit.
This game has a certain undertone to it, and I believe it could be a feisty contest. There are a number of players that have played for each team at one point in their careers, and while that’s all fine and dandy, let’s keep our focus on winning this game, rather than how nice it is to see old pals. We’re in a playoff race, and these two points mean a lot more than reminiscing.
* The Florida Panthers have lost 158 man games to injury.
* Jason Garrison has equaled his career high in points (11g-7a) 18 with last season. We have 41 more games to go.
* The Panthers have lost the last three games in regulation to Vancouver, with a win coming in a shootout victory on February 1, 2008.
* The Panthers have been in first place for 51 consecutive days this year.
* The Panthers are 8-2-2 in their lat 12 home games and have points in 15 of 19 home games so far.
* Vancouver has scored 46 goals in the first period and is 22-5-1 when scoring first.
* Henrik Sedin has played in 541 consecutive games placing him second among active players. Jay Bouwmeester is first at 548.
* Daniel Sedin is two points away from 700 career points.
* Mikael Samuelsson played two full seasons for Vancouver and 6 games this year totaling 49 goals.
* Ed Jovanovski played parts of seven seasons for Vancouver and was involved in the Pavel Bure trade.
* Marco Sturm played 6 games for the Canucks this season before coming to Florida in the David Booth deal.
* Roberto Luongo played for five seasons in Florida winning 108 games.
* Keith Ballard played two seasons in Florida, playing all 82 games each year.
* Chris Higgins played 48 games for the Panthers last season scoring 11 goals.
* Victor Oreskovich played 50 games for Florida in the 2009-2010 season scoring twice.
* Alexander Sulzer played nine games for Florida last season before signing with Vancouver as a free agent this summer.
* Mike Duco who’s expected to play tonight was a Panther for a couple seasons. He played 12 games in that span.
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