Who: Vancouver Canucks (17-19-3, 37 points, 6th place Pacific Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (20-13-6, 46 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh in the Western PA viewing market, Sportsnet Canada for those up north, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Canucks have dropped four of their last five outings. This is the second contest of a tough five-game road trip for Vancouver, which began on Sunday with a brutal 7-4 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg. Third-string starter Collin Delia was pulled after letting in four goals on 13 shots.
Pens Path Ahead: The Pens are back at home this weekend for one of the toughest back-to-backs of the season so far (made even tougher by Tristan Jarry’s potential absence, which could necessitate Dustin Tokarski’s Penguins debut). The Penguins will greet the Winnipeg Jets on Friday before facing the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
Season Series: The Penguins last saw the Canucks during a losing streak (no, not that latest one, the seven-game one back in October.) Bo Horvat scored twice on the power play and Pittsburgh fell, 5-1, during a flat performance at Rogers Arena.
Hidden stat: When you see the Canucks on the game sheet, you already know it’s going to be a high-scoring game. Not only does Vancouver rack up an NHL top-ten average of 3.38 goals a game, they also allow an average of almost four against.
Getting to know the Canucks
SB Nation counterpart: Nucks Misconduct
Andrei Kuzmenko - Elias Pettersson - JT Miller
Ilya Mikheyev - Bo Horvat - Brock Boeser
Conor Garland - Sheldon Dries - William Lockwood
Dakota Joshua - Curtis Lazar - Jack Studnicka
Quinn Hughes / Ethan Bear
Oliver Ekman-Larsson / Tyler Myers
Travis Dermott / Luke Schenn
Goalies: Spencer Martin (Collin Delia)
Scratches: Lane Peterson, Riley Stillman, Kyle Burroughs
IR: Tanner Pearson, Micheal Ferland, Tucker Poolman, Thatcher Demko
- Since losing Thatcher Demko to injury on December 3, the Canucks’ goaltending situation has been tenuous. (Yes, it was tenuous before that too, but the loss of Demko certainly hasn’t helped.) Third-stringer Collin Delia has made five appearances, one in relief, but it is backup Spencer Martin who has been bearing the brunt of the Canucks’ structural weaknesses.
That’s a tough role to fill for a goaltender who only had nine career starts under his belt when he began this season.
It’s been a rough go for Martin, who has allowed five goals against five times in nine appearances since Demko’s injury.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau on Martin, via The Province:
“He’s taking the brunt every game. He competes and he gives us everything he’s got every night. Now some nights, it’s just it’s not consistent but that’s what happens with young goalies. He gives us an opportunity at least at the beginning of almost every game to be there and battling. That’s why you’ll go to bat for this guy because he’s in there, he’s not dodging questions. He’s not dodging responsibility. He’s in there doing the best he can and and that’s good enough for me.”
- Canucks captain Bo Horvat is scoring his way to a career year. Just 39 games into the season, he has 29 goals and is set to eclipse his career high of 31 from 2021-22, in part thanks to some artful deflections in front of the net.
Bo Horvat tallies his 11th tip-in goal of the year, opening the scoring up for Vancouver!#Canucks pic.twitter.com/IedKEiUutb— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) January 4, 2023
- Horvat’s success has sparked trade rumors— Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has reported Elias Pettersson is the only “untouchable” player on this Canucks roster— raising a question which could define the Canucks’ future.
Should this team keep fighting for a playoff spot (heading into Monday, they sat eight points behind the wild-card Oilers) or pack it in and trade their captain at what might be a career peak?
From Daniel Wagner at Vancouver is Awesome:
The truth is, it’s very easy to miss the playoffs by accident while trying to be a playoff team — Canucks fans have seen their team do exactly that six times in the last seven seasons and could be on their way to a seventh.
If you miss the playoffs intentionally while building up draft capital, stocking the prospect pool, and tanking for a potential generational talent, however, then at least there’s hope.
So, even though the Canucks can’t catch the three worst teams in the league, they still have an opportunity to do what they should have done years ago: start the rebuilding process.
And now for the Pens...
Potential Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Drew O’Connor - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Marcus Pettersson / Jan Rutta
Brian Dumoulin / Ty Smith
P.O. Joseph / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Casey DeSmith (Dustin Tokarski)
Scratches: Tristan Jarry (injured), Ryan Poehling (injured), Mark Friedman
Non-Roster: Kris Letang (family leave)
IR: Jeff Petry (upper body, LTIR), Josh Archibald
- Jeff Petry skated before the game Sunday and is eligible to return from IR when ready. Any other injury updates (Poehling and Jarry were rehabbing in Pittsburgh during the road trip) will come before the game today.
- Looking for someone to put money down on? Per Pens PR, Jake Guentzel has recorded points in every single one of his 10 career games against the Canucks (12 goals, 7 assists).
- One more point will tie Crosby (1,456) with Teemu Selanne (1,457) for 17th place on the NHL’s list of all-time point leaders, while one more 5v5 goal will move Crosby (377) past Patrick Marleau (377) for 25th among all-time even-strength scorers.
- The last time Casey DeSmith faced the Canucks was on October 27, 2018, when he caught 29 consecutive shots to claim a 5-0 win and the second shutout of his NHL career.