Vancouver Canucks visit Winnipeg Jets looking for 4th-straight road win
Thursday October 18 - Vancouver Canucks at Winnipeg Jets - 5 p.m. - Sportsnet Vancouver - Sportsnet 650
Vancouver Canucks: 6 GP, 4-2-0, third in Pacific Division
Winnipeg Jets: 6 GP, 3-2-1, fourth in Central Division
Riding their impressive three-game winning streak, the Vancouver Canucks will finish off their six-game road trip on Thursday against a embarrassed Winnipeg Jets team.
Heading into the third period of their game against Edmonton with a 4-1 lead at home on Tuesday, the Jets gave up three straight goals in the third period before Darnell Nurse finished them off in overtime. Not pretty.
Tonight's also the battle of honour for the gamers vs. the non-gamers, although Patrik Laine is doing his best to downplay his earlier chirp at the Canucks.
You can't win the Stanley Cup in October, which is good news for the many folks who have picked the Jets to become Canada's first championship team in 25 years this season.
With expectations now sky high, Winnipeg has started just so-so. They handed the hot-starting Carolina Hurricanes their first regulation loss of the season last weekend. Their other wins have come against St. Louis and L.A., while they got spanked by the Stars and Predators as well as taking that overtime loss to Edmonton.
So far, Kyle Connor has led the way offensively for the Jets with four goals and Connor Hellebuyck hasn't found the form that earned him a second-place finish in Vezina voting last season. In five starts, he's 2-2-1 with a .906 save percentage and 2.99 goals-against average.
Hellebuyck will be squaring off tonight against our boy Anders Nilsson, whose numbers right now line up closely with last year's other two Vezina finalists, Pekka Rinne and Andrei Vasilevskiy. In his three appearances, Nilsson has stopped 83 of the 88 shots he has faced for a .947 save percentage and 1.67 goals-against average. That's less than half as many goals per game as the 3.44 GAA he finished with last season.
Nilsson has made some adjustments to his technique under Vancouver's new goaltending coach, Ian Clark, but he has also talked quite a bit about how he's feeling much calmer this year when he's in the net.
Of course, Nilsson has had hot streaks before. Last year, he won four of his first five games in a Vancouver uniform. The season before, he gave up three goals or less in his first 10 appearances of the year and put up a 5-2-3 record as Robin Lehner's backup with the Sabres. In 2015-16, he put together an impressive five-game winning streak in December for the Edmonton Oilers but found himself on waivers by early February.
Let's enjoy Nilsson's strong play while it lasts, but not be too surprised if it abruptly vanishes at some point.
Unsurprisingly, Travis Green is also electing to keep the rest of his lineup intact against the Jets, which means Michael Del Zotto and Brendan Leipsic will watch from the press box once again.
And here's today's update on Elias Pettersson:
For the Jets, Dustin Byfuglien has been sidelined for the last two games with an upper-body ailment, but he draws back in tonight. That sends Dmitry Kulikov to the sidelines.
With Byfuglien's return, the Jets are now fully healthy. After picking up just one assist in his first five NHL games, rookie forward Kristian Vesalainen was scratched against Edmonton on Tuesday and will watch again tonight, while Brendan Lemieux stays in the lineup.
Delta's Nic Petan is the team's other healthy scratch. He missed the first five games of the season on personal leave following the sudden death of his father. When he was added back to the active roster earlier this week, the Jets put Marko Dano on waivers. He was claimed by Colorado.
Though the Jets are not yet firing on all cylinders this season, they'll still present a formidable challenge to the Canucks. It has been nearly two years since Vancouver last beat Winnipeg — a 4-1 win at Rogers Arena on December 20, 2016. The Canucks' last victory at Bell MTS Place was a lifetime ago:
Meanwhile, down at the farm...
Olli Juolevi scored his first goal of the year but that was the lone bright spot as the Utica Comets got crushed at home by the Rochester Americans by a 6-1 score on Wednesday.
Juolevi's goal came with the man advantage, but Utica's penalty kill was dismal against a strong Rochester power play, giving up four goals in five shorthanded situations.
After Ivan Kulbakov earned both wins against the Toronto Marlies over the weekend, Richard Bachman was back in net for Wednesday's loss. Here's the latest on concussed Thatcher Demko:
Utica is now 3-3-0 through six games and sitting in fifth place in the North Division.
Alex Biega joins the team today. The Comets' next game is at home on Friday against Cleveland before a visit to Syracuse on Saturday.
Enjoy the game!