Thursday night marks the first time Ryan Kesler will play an NHL game in Vancouver wearing anything other than a Canuck jersey. But in an interview with the media, Kesler made it clear he wasn't scared, but was looking forward to an intense matchup and is confident that Anaheim can leave with the two points.
The Anaheim Ducks have been tied with their opponents, forcing extra minutes in six of their last seven contests, and have only won of those, dating back to November 5. One of their shootout losses came at home when they faced off against the Vancouver Canucks for the first time this season, just 11 days ago. Since November 5, the Canucks have won four games, and lost two to other Pacific Division teams. Both losses were in very dominant fashion, with Vancouver getting stomped by the LA Kings 5-1, and then falling to the Arizona Coyotes 5-0.
Vancouver will be on the second night of back-to-back games having defeated the Oilers in Edmonton last night. With a full day off between away games, hopefully the Ducks will have a revitalized energy when the take the ice in Vancouver tonight.
Bruce Boudreau has confirmed that Francois Beauchemin is expected to return to the lineup after missing five games, including the first Duck-Canuck matchup, with Mumps. Coach Boudreau has also stated that he expects Devante Smith-Pelly to return for Anaheim as well. DSP has missed just three contests with a shoulder injury.
Ryan Miller tallied his 12th win of the season on Wednesday in Edmonton, despite giving up a pair of goals separated by just 11 seconds. Miller has also allowed nine goals against in his past two starts. Perhaps fatigue, and a couple subpar performances from Miller (he allowed four goals against on 32 shots faced), could encourage coach Willie Desjardins to give backup netminder Eddie Lack the nod to start between the pipes.
Other injury and scratch updates have surrounded information regarding former Duck, Luca Sbisa, who did not play in Vancouver's game on Wednesday night due to an undisclosed injury, as well as current Duck, William Karlsson, who could miss his second game thanks to the stomach flu.
What Can We Learn From This Game?:
In their previous matchup between these two, the Canucks witnessed how inconsistent the Anaheim youth, especially that seen on their defensive lineup, could be. In that same game, goaltender Frederik Anderson stopped 34 of 35 shots faced, while the opposition, Eddie Lack, managed to stop 28 of 29, just letting one puck slip by on Anaheim's only powerplay of the game.
In my opinion, Anaheim's weakest defense pair of late has been Cam Fowler and Bryan Allen. Granted I have been a pretty outspoken doubter of Bryan Allen's contributions to the team, but who hasn't. I find that when numbers 4 and 5 hit the ice I tense up a little more. I expect the horrible defensive-zone turnovers, probably from either weak cycling, bad communication, horrible passing, or just complete stupidity.
So what can we learn from this game? We can learn if Fowler and Allen (and Allen more so) can actually figure out what "defenders" should do. We'll likely find out if Andersen has snapped out of his funk from the past few games. Can Beleskey continue to pot goals and trail just Perry for the team lead in goals? Will Vatanen continue to be the Ducks' biggest powerplay threat? Last, but potentially most important, who really won in the Bonino-Kesler trade?! Though that one won't be entirely settled tonight in any case.
This team seems to have a huge number of question marks surrounding special teams, defense, and goaltending, so hopefully there will be at least a few good conclusions we can draw from the game in Vancouver.
Bryan Allen and Cam Fowler will have a combined +/- rating of -6 after just the first two periods, and can be blamed for at least three of Vancouver's goals simply because of bad defensive zone turnovers.