SAN JOSE SHARKS (3-0-0) AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS (3-1-0)
TONIGHT, 7 PM, ROGERS ARENA
TV: SPORTSNET. RADIO: TEAM 1040
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks are carrying a couple of streaks into tonight's early-season showdown against the soaring San Jose Sharks.
The good streak is three straight wins, the latter two in overtime. The bad streak is eight straight losses to the Sharks in games that matter, plus another two in the pre-season. So something has to give tonight at Rogers Arena. One streak must come to an end.
In their season-opening meeting last Thursday, the Canucks led the Sharks 1-0 halfway through the first period before falling 4-1. San Jose outshot Vancouver 35-22.
“I thought we played really good for 10 minutes,” noted Canuck winger Daniel Sedin. “For sure, we want to show that we can play a good game for 60 minutes. That's our goal and we're looking forward to it.”
Daniel and brother Henrik are expected to start tonight's game with Mike Santorelli on their right side. Santorelli was moved there early in the second period in Tuesday's 3-2 OT win over the New Jersey Devils, scored the OT winner and finished the game plus-3. Santorelli skated with the twins in practice Wednesday. There were no line rushes at today's optional morning skate.
“He doesn't make a lot of mistakes and he's scoring goals, too, so he's been a great surprise,” said Daniel of Santorelli. “I mean, I knew he was good but he's been really good. I like his game. He's such a smart player.”
The Sharks have outshot their opponents by a stupendous 133-65 margin this season, 98 of those in their last two games – 4-1 over Phoenix and 9-2 versus Alain Vigneault's Rangers. Canuck head coach John Tortorella said he doesn't intend to change the way his team plays to try and slow down the Shark offence. San Jose is averaging 5.67 goals per game.
“We know they throw a lot of shots on net but it doesn't change how we're going to defend,” Torts stated. “We're trying to get our system down defensively so that's the way we'll go about it. The rivalry? I don't feel it. I think we're playing a little better team tonight and that's all I'm concerned about.
“I feel it's another game where we've got to get better. We had a good practice yesterday, we had a good tape session this morning and now we need to be the best we can be tonight.”
Roberto Luongo likes a lot of action, especially early in games, so he might get his wish tonight. But he wouldn't admit to expecting a continuous barrage from the Shark shooters.
“You don't expect anything,” Luongo said. “You just want to be on top of your game. They're a team that likes to throw a lot of pucks on net from all angles and, as you guys know, I enjoy a lot of shots. They've always been a dangerous team offensively and they've added a couple of weapons, of course.”
The Sharks' newest weapon is Czech rookie Tomas Hertl, who leads the league in goals (6) and points (7). He is skating on San Jose's top line with centre Joe Thornton and right winger Brent Burns. The other Shark lines expected to face the Canucks are Logan Couture between Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels, Joe Pavelski with Matt Nieto and Tyler Kennedy and Andrew Desjardins between James Sheppard and Matt Pelech, the latter just called up for the game from the Sharks' AHL farm team in Worcester.
Netminder Antti Niemi is expected to make his fourth straight start for San Jose. He'll carry a 1.33 goals against average and .938 save percentage into tonight's match.
Thornton, the Sharks' captain, attempted to downplay his team's recent domination of the Canucks.
“We've had a lot of tight games and overtime games that just kind of swung in our favour,” he said. “It's not like they played bad. They're a good team over there.”
Prior to the morning skate, the Canucks announced that franchise icon Stan Smyl will replace the departed Dave Gagner as director of player development. Smyl, who has played and worked for the Canucks since 1978, will also continue to hold his current title as senior adviser to GM Mike Gillis.
ICE CHIPS: Canuck defenceman Jason Garrison, with five points, shares the league lead among blueline scorers with Alex Petrangelo of the St. Louis Blues... The Canucks remain one of four teams who have not allowed a power-play goal in the young season. They've killed 15 straight...The Sharks, traditionally strong on faceoffs, head into tonight's game ranked only 20th in the league at 49.1 per cent. The Canucks are 12th at 51.6 per cent... Referees for tonight's game are Dennis LaRue and Justin St. Pierre.
INJURIES: The Sharks will be missing forwards Raffi Torres (knee), Martin Havlat (shoulder) and Adam Burish (lower body). They will also be without defenceman Brad Stuart (first game of three-game suspension)... The Canucks will be without RW Alex Burrows (foot), C Jordan Schroeder (ankle) and RW Zack Kassian (eighth game of eight-game suspension).
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