Saturday December 15 - Vancouver Canucks vs. Philadelphia Flyers - 7 p.m. - CBC, Sportsnet, CityTV, Sportsnet 650
Vancouver Canucks: 34 GP, 14-16-4, 32 pts, sixth in Pacific Division
Philadelphia Flyers: 30 GP, 12-14-4, 28 pts, eighth in Metropolitan Division
It's a tale as old as time—or at least dating back to the Pat Quinn era in the '90s. Riding high after a successful road trip, the Vancouver Canucks lay an egg against a weak opponent in their first game back at home.
I feel like there haven't been enough successful road trips in recent years to test this theory, but I wonder if what looks like an 'easy' game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday will turn out to cause the team some trouble.
The Canucks have had one off day to rest and recuperate since returning from Nashville, while the Flyers outshot the Oilers 32-22 on Friday night in Edmonton, but got their only goal midway through the third period on their way to a 4-1 loss. After a late-game collapse led to an overtime loss in Calgary on Wednesday and a 7-1 drubbing in Winnipeg last Sunday, the Flyers have struggled on the Western Canadian portion of their current five-game road trip after getting things started with a nice 6-2 win in Buffalo last Saturday.
Since general manager Ron Hextall was fired on November 26, the Flyers have gone 2-3-2, and have given up 29 goals in those seven games (4.14 goals per game). Injured goaltender Brian Elliott had been travelling with the team on this road trip, but apparently he returned to Philadelphia on Friday for a scheduled medical appointment
and is now back out of the mix for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, Michal Neuvirth left the team on Thursday to be with his wife for the birth of their child. That left Anthony Stolarz to take the loss in Edmonton on Friday. He's now 2-2-2 in eight NHL appearances this season, with a 3.70 goals-against average and .887 save percentage. If Dave Hakstol doesn't want to play Stolarz back-to-back, his other option is 26-year-old Alex Lyon, whose only NHL action this season saw him give up four goals on 12 shots in one period when he got the start in the Flyers' 5-2 loss to Buffalo back on November 21.
Other than the goalies, though, the Flyers are basically healthy. And despite all the drama surrounding his team, Claude Giroux is having another great year. After finishing second to Connor McDavid with a career-high 102 points last season, the Philadelphia captain is 11-28-39 in 30 games so far this year. That puts him on pace for 109 points, even though he currently ranks 11th in points per game in this higher-scoring NHL season.
The Canucks are starting a back-to-back of their own on Saturday, with the Edmonton Oilers coming to town on Sunday. Their goaltending situation seems much more straightforward: Markstrom tonight, Nilsson tomorrow.
After the day off on Friday, it's a full morning skate for Vancouver at Rogers Arena on Saturday.
Erik Gudbranson is back on the ice after missing Thursday's game with back spasms. Adam Gaudette is also skating and expected to play.
Sven Baertschi is skating, but still wearing the grey non-contact jersey.
Elsewhere, the Canucks announced a player signing on Friday:
Mitch Eliot is a 20-year-old right-shot defenseman. After two years at Michigan State, Eliot joined the Sarnia Sting at the end of last season, where he has been putting up points. The Sting are a middle-of-the-pack team this year—currently sixth in the OHL's West Division with a record of 16-14-2. With 7-20-27 in 33 games, Eliot ranks seventh in scoring among OHL defensemen this season.
Because he's already 20, the clock starts on Eliot's three-year entry-level deal this season. According to CapFriendly, that gives the Canucks 46 contracts on their books this season, four short of the maximum of 50.
Next, a quick rundown from World Juniors.
Team Canada has already made a number of cuts, including goalie Matthew Villalta on Friday:
Down in Everett, Washington, Team USA opens its three-day pre-tournament camp on Saturday, with Quinn Hughes and Tyler Madden among the team's 29 players.
Pre-tournament games around B.C. start next Tuesday. Of note for fans who want to see Canucks prospects:
• Finland vs. Denmark on Wednesday, December 19 in Langley
• Switzerland vs. Canada on Wednesday, December 19 in Victoria
• USA vs. Russia on Thursday, December 20 in Kamloops
• Slovakia vs. Canada on Friday, December 21 in Victoria
• Czech Republic vs. USA on Saturday, December 22 in Langley
• Finland vs. Canada on Sunday, December 23 in Vancouver
Finally, a couple of Hockey Night in Canada programming notes of interest:
If you missed the first run of Sportsnet's Brock Boeser feature that debuted earlier this week, it runs again tonight following After Hours.
Enjoy the game!