Saturday February 2 - Vancouver Canucks at Colorado Avalanche - 7 p.m. - CBC, Sportsnet, Sportsnet 650
Vancouver Canucks: 51 GP, 23-22-6, 52 pts, fourth in Pacific Division
Colorado Avalanche: 50 GP, 22-20-8, fifth in Central Division
The Vancouver Canucks will have Nikolay Goldobin back in their lineup after four straight healthy scratches when they get back to work on Saturday night in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.
While the rest of the team has been off for the last nine days, Goldy hasn't played in nearly three weeks. His last appearance was in Vancouver's 5-1 win over Florida on January 13, when he took the third-period hooking penalty that eventually led to the Panthers' only goal of the game, one second after he stepped back on the ice—and which tied the game 1-1 before the Canucks eventually blew it open.
The Canucks seem to have survived the All-Star Game and their bye week vacations with no new injuries, so it looks like it's Markus Granlund's turn to take a seat in the press box—his first healthy scratch of the season.
Granlund has 8-9-17 in 51 games this year and has been deployed in a wide range of roles. His versatility and defensive responsibility are his two best traits. But he has just two goals and one assist in his last 13 games going back to December 22—a stretch where the Canucks' offense has dropped to an average of just 2.31 goals per game and they've been shut out four times.
On paper, Goldy-Petey-Boeser seems like it's almost as fun as Colorado's high-flying trio of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen, so it'll be interesting to see how the matchup plays out. Scratching Granlund means that Pettersson won't have any backup when his line is out for faceoffs, but I guess Travis Green feels like he's back to having enough depth in that area with Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle anchoring his other three lines.
Avs coach Jared Bednar is breaking up his big guns to start the game, but says he may put his top trio together at times—and they'll certainly be deployed on the power play.
After leading the NHL in scoring for a good chunk of the early season, Mikko Rantanan has now dropped into a tie for third place with Johnny Gaudreau, with 74 points. The 22-year-old power forward had 21 points in 12 games in October, 22 in 14 games in November, 19 in 14 in December and a relatively humble-for-him 12 points in 10 games in January.
Bednar's lineup changes are an effort to recapture the early-season magic of his team, which has struggled for the last six weeks or so. Since December 20, the Avs are 3-10-2 and have given up five goals or more in seven of those 15 games.
By comparison, the Canucks are 7-5-2 over the same stretch, and have given up five goals just twice along the way.
Semyon Varlamov is expected to get the start in net. He's a so-so 13-12-5 this season, with a .908 save percentage and 2.82 goals-against average. Before the break, he'd been getting regular action, starting six straight games before yielding the net to Philipp Grubauer for the Avs' 5-2 loss to Minnesota on January 23.
Jacob Markstrom will get the nod for Vancouver. His personal numbers for the year are almost identical to Varlamov's: also a .908 save percentage and a 2.84 GAA. His record, however, is better. He's 19-13-5 on the year, and his quality start percentage
on Hockey Reference is now up to .622. That's a metric where anything over .600 is considered "good" and the league average is around .530. Markstrom was .509 last season and has averaged .546 during his time in Vancouver, so his number this season is fantastic—especially for a guy who just turned 29 and is making a very team-friendly $3.667 million for this season and next.
By comparison, Varlamov is at .581 this year after hitting .596 in quality starts last season. He'll be 31 in April and will be a UFA this summer after completing the last season of a five-year deal that has paid him $5.9 million a year.
Like the Canucks, the Avs are also coming off their bye week. They sent all three members of their big line to All-Star weekend. Nathan MacKinnon suffered a bruised foot in the Avs' last game and was held out of action—which is what led to Kendall Coyne Schofield's thrilling turn in the fastest skater competition. It was MacKinnon's third All-Star nod and, like with Elias Petterson, the first for both Rantanan and captain Gabriel Landeskog.
A Canucks/Avs game is a fun way to get back into action—and kicks off a four-game, six-day road trip for the Canucks, which will continue with stops in Philadelphia on Monday, Washington on Tuesday and Chicago on Thursday before the team returns to Rogers Arena to host the Calgary Flames next Saturday.
Exactly three months ago, the Canucks played arguably their most entertaining game of the year at Rogers Arena in the wild back-and-forth affair that will be remembered as Elias Pettersson's first five-point game in Vancouver's 7-6 overtime win.
While we wait for puck drop, why not relive that crazy night of November 2?
Petey has referenced that game as the most fun he's had all year. I'm hoping both sides can channel some of that same magic tonight.
Enjoy the game!