Canucks Game Day: Vancouver, San Jose tangle yet again … and they love it!
Pacific Division rivals complete their four-game season series tonight
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa (left) is on the receiving end of a rub-out along the boards by San Jose Sharks forward James Sheppard during the Canucks-Sharks NHL game in San Jose, Calif., last Thursday, a 4-2 Canucks win. ‘I love playing them,’ Bieksa says of the Sharks. ‘I think they bring out the best in our team. They are good, competitive games.’
Photograph by: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images
VANCOUVER — Yes, it’s the San Jose Sharks. Again.
The Vancouver Canucks have been seeing a lot of the Sharks lately. In fact, when the two teams meet tonight at Rogers Arena (7 p.m., Sportsnet Vancouver, Team 1040), it will mark the eighth time in the last 25 games that mattered that the Canucks have tangled with San Jose.
In something of a scheduling quirk, the two teams wrap up their four-game season series tonight with the NHL schedule only at the quarter-pole.
The Canucks and Sharks insist they are not tired of one another.
“I love the Sharks,” said Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “I love playing them. I think they bring out the best in our team. They are good, competitive games. Last game was, I think, our best game of the season, in my opinion, from start to finish.”
That game was played last Thursday night in San Jose, when the Canucks won 4-2 to snap a nine-game losing streak against the Sharks.
San Jose coach Todd McLellan hopes his team will be motivated by last week’s loss to Vancouver.
“We were thoroughly beaten that night,” McLellan said. “I thought there was a little more battle in the Canucks than there was in us. We didn’t get our noses over the pucks when we had to and really didn’t establish our game at all.”
The Sharks, of course, swept the Canucks in the first round of last season’s playoffs. They beat the Canucks by identical 4-1 scores earlier this season. “We have played this team a lot and it actually has been a really good run and good for the rivalry,” McLellan said. “You look at the playoffs last year, you look at even the exhibition season this year, we have played them more than any team in the league. It will be nice to play them again. I am sure it will be a very competitive game and both teams will then go on their way and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to meet up again in the playoffs.”
After opening the season with 13 of their first 20 games on the road, the Canucks now begin a six-game homestand and play 11 of their next 15 games at Rogers Arena.
“It’s going to be nice to be home here for a while,” said Roberto Luongo, who will start in goal for Vancouver tonight. “ Obviously we have to take care of business.”
Vancouver has lost three of its last four games and enters tonight’s game eighth in the Western Conference.
The Sharks are coming off a 3-2 overtime win in Calgary on Tuesday night. But they had lost five straight games in either overtime or a shootout before that win over the Flames.
“We haven’t won some of the games we could have,” said San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle. “If our bad games are the ones we are getting a point out of then I think we’ll take it. If we get a couple of wins out of that five-game winless streak then we’re not sitting here talking about this.”
• PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Henrik Sedin, Canucks: The Vancouver captain has gone three straight games without a point after having a 12-game points streak snapped on last week’s road trip.
Joe Pavelski, Sharks: Pavelski enters tonight’s game tied with the other Joe — Thornton — for the team lead with 19 points. But he doesn’t have a point in three games vs. the Canucks this season.
Canucks: Wingers Jannik Hansen (shoulder) and Dale Weise (foot) and centre Jordan Schroeder (foot) will not play.
Sharks: San Jose is without wingers Brent Burns (upper body), Raffi Torres (knee) and Adam Burish (lower body).
ICE CHIPS: Winger David Booth will return to the Vancouver lineup tonight after a three-game conditioning stint with the Utica Comets of the AHL. Booth is expected to skate on a line with Brad Richardson and Zack Kassian … Chislain Hebert and Kevin Pollack are tonight’s referees.
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