Nikolay Goldobin is back and Michael Del Zotto is out as Canucks host Preds
Thursday December 6 - Vancouver Canucks vs. Nashville Predators - 7 p.m. - Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet 650
Vancouver Canucks: 30 GP, 11-6-3, 25 pts, seventh in Pacific Division
Nashville Predators: 28 GP, 19-8-1, 37 pts, first in Central Division
The Vancouver Canucks will wrap up their five-game homestand looking for their first win at Rogers Arena since November 2. The Nashville Predators drop by on Thursday night.
The Preds lead the Central, are third in the league, and are currently the NHL's stingiest team—allowing an average of just 2.36 goals per game. By comparison, Vancouver ranks 27th at 3.43. At age 36, defending Vezina Trophy holder Pekka Rinne is putting together another stellar season—leading all goalies with nine or more games played with a .935 save percentage and 1.81 goals-against average. No equipment issues here!
Though the Preds have been trying to make sure Rinne doesn't get overworked, he has now started nine of Nashville's last 10 games, and had to come in to relieve Jusse Saros in the 10th, when Saros was pulled after giving up five goals on 15 shots in 31:53 in a 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues back on November 23. With a nicely spaced-out schedule this week, it's a near certainty that Rinne will get the start against Vancouver on Thursday.
The Canucks will go back to Jacob Markstrom after Anders Nilsson played well but got hit by a pair of one-goal losses against Dallas and Minnesota.
After a day off on Wednesday, Travis Green has re-inserted Nikolay Goldobin into his lineup at Thursday's morning skate—and promoted him to the first power-play unit.
The penalty kill has taken the brunt of the criticism lately, but the Canucks have also been struggling to take advantage of their opportunities with the man advantage during their current swoon. They're 0-for-12 in their last four games and the last man to score on the power play was the now-departed Sam Gagner, who connected in that road win in Los Angeles back on November 24.
Here's how the rest of the lineup shakes out:
After his two-penalty night on Tuesday, it looks like Michael Del Zotto has earned himself a ticket to the press box, as Derrick Pouliot rotates back into the lineup.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the tide is turning for the Canucks, injury-wise. They're actually heading into Thursday's matchup as the healthier team, with just Brandon Sutter and Sven Baertschi still sidelined. Nashville will be without three key players up front—Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Kyle Turris—as well as P.K. Subban on the blue line.
Here's how the Preds deployed their lineup in their 2-1 home win over Buffalo on Tuesday, which saw Kevin Fiala deliver the winning goal:
This is the first meeting of the year between the two teams. Last season, the Canucks beat the Preds 5-3 in Nashville in November, but got crushed by a score of 7-1 at Rogers Arena in December and dropped a 4-3 overtime decision at home in March.
Though the team's losing streak has become the defining story of the Canucks' last three and a half weeks of play, Troy Stecher says it's important not to let that dominate their thinking.
A win against a tough team would go a long way toward improving the group's morale as they head out for their last road trip before Christmas.
Turning to other Canucks news: Jett Woo may not have gotten a Team Canada selection camp invite for the upcoming World Junior Championship, but he played arguably the best game of his junior career on Wednesday.
Woo is now up to 5-15-20 in 22 games this season.
The Canucks also added a long-shot prospect to the World Junior mix when 2018 third-rounder Tyler Madden was named to Team USA's preliminary roster on Wednesday.
Madden was not part of the group that skated at the World Junior Showcase in Kamloops this summer. His invite comes on the strength of his outstanding freshman season so far at Northeastern, where he has 5-6-11 in 13 games. First-year college players usually have to wait to earn ice time, especially on special teams, but coach Jim Madigan has been generous with his deployment of Madden, who has made the most of his opportunities.
Team USA has a Brady Tkachuk-sized hole in its forward ranks. After a strong showing with nine points and a bronze medal for the U.S. group last year in Buffalo, Tkachuk was expected to be this year's team leader but he's playing so well in Ottawa, he's not expected to be released by the Senators.
Madden hasn't made the team yet. Team USA has named 29 players in total, so six more players will be cut after the team's evaluation camp in Everett, Washington from December 15-17.
Not surprisingly, Quinn Hughes was also named to the U.S. squad, along with his brother Jack.
To close today, Forbes released its latest NHL franchise valuations on Thursday. Here's the link:
The Canucks rank ninth overall, with a valuation of $735 million.
And one final note from Forbes, from me. I just posted a story on 2014 U.S. Olympian Lyndsey Fry, who was hired by the Arizona Coyotes in November as a special advisor to the team's president.
It's pretty cool to see a female hockey player getting an opportunity like this on the business side of NHL operations. Check out Lyndsey's story and how Coyotes president Ahron Cohen plans to tap into her skillset here:
Enjoy the game!