Mike Santorelli of the Vancouver Canucks clears the puck out of harm's way after Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp tried to split in-between Chris Tanev and Ryan Kesler, right, in front of netminder Eddie Lack on Friday at the United Center. The Canucks erased an early 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in an eight-round shootout.
Photograph by: Charles Rex Arbogast, The Associated Press, Vancouver Sun
WINNIPEG JETS (16-16-5) AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS (21-11-6)
SUNDAY, 5 P.M., ROGERS ARENA
TV: SPORTSNET: RADIO: TEAM 1040.
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets will meet more frequently now that the Jets have moved to their rightful place in the Western Conference, beginning with today's 5 p.m. date at Rogers Arena.
Since relocating from Atlanta for the 2011-12 season, the Jets have played in Vancouver just once – a 3-2 Canuck victory March 8, 2012 – while the Canucks have yet to play in Winnipeg. They will twice in the second half of the season.
Today's game is the immediate concern, however. It will be the Canucks' last chance to put two more points under their tree before a week-long Christmas break. The Canucks, who have won five straight at home, stand seventh in the West but have played more games than everybody in the playoff chase except for front-running Anaheim and Chicago.
Both the Canucks and Jets are coming off victories Friday. The Canucks edged the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in an eight-round shootout while the Jets beat the Florida Panthers 5-2.
Neither team held a morning skate today due to the 5 p.m. start time but the Jets did practise at home Saturday before flying to Vancouver.
“Vancouver’s a good team, they have a lot of good players, we have to be physical against them,” Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian told reporters in Winnipeg before the flight.
“There's a lot of skilled guys that can make some plays if you give them some time. I think any time you can eliminate their time and space, and make sure that they can't make those tic-tac-toe plays that'd be a good thing.”
The Jets are 4-4-1 in the month of December and 16-16-5 on the season, which leaves them sitting 11th in the West and eight points out of a playoff spot. They are 11 behind Vancouver.
“We’ve been in and out,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “Winning is just a by-product of playing well as a group of 20, and if you can produce and play well as a group of 20, and work hard and perform, the results will follow that. We haven’t had that kind of game that much.”
The Canucks have had a much better December than the Jets, going 8-1-1. During their five-game home winning streak, the Canucks have outscored their opponents 18-5. Overall, they are 10-5-3 at Rogers Arena.
Even though Daniel and Henrik Sedin have cooled off in December, they continue to lead the team in scoring with 33 points apiece. Ryan Kesler still leads in goals with 15 but he's in a six-game goal drought and didn't register a point on the just completed three-game road trip.
The Canuck power play was also blanked on the road trip, going 0-for-9 and has fallen back to 24th in the league from a recent 'high' of 21st. The Jets, meanwhile, are 7-for-23 since Dec. 10 and have moved up to 25th with the man advantage.
Vancouver continues to remain the NHL's best when shorthanded and has allowed just one opposition power play goal in the last nine games. The Jets are tied for 12th (with San Jose) when shorthanded.
Offensively, the Jets are led by Bryan Little with 31 points, followed by one-time Canuck nemesis Dustin Byfuglien with 26. Former Vancouver Giant forward Evander Kane, who has missed eight games due to injury, has nine goals and nine assists and is seventh in team scoring. He has been skating lately on a line with rookie centre Mark Scheifele and right winger Michael Frolik. The trio combined for six points in Friday's win over Florida as Scheifele extended his points streak to five games (3-4-7).
ICE CHIPS: Jets winger Anthony Peluso is eligible to return to the lineup after serving his three-game suspension for boarding Dallas defenceman Alex Goligoski... Byfuglien leads the Jets in assists with 20 but is also a team-worst minus-13... Canuck forward Mike Santorelli, briefly a Jet last season, leads Vancouver with a plus-14, followed by Dan Hamhuis at plus-9.
INJURIES: The Canucks are again expected to be without RW Alex Burrows (jaw), D Alex Edler (knee), D Ryan Stanton (ankle) and C Jordan Schroeder (ankle)... The Jets left D Grant Clitsome (illness) back in Winnipeg along with RW Matt Halischuk (arm), C Jim Slater (sports hernia) and D Paul Postma (leg).
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