Game Day: Canucks can’t let up heading into Predators’ den

 

 
 
 
 
Paul Gaustad of the Nashville Predators pins Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin to the ice while goalie Pekka Rinne makes the save during Nashville's 5-1 win on Jan. 13, 2015 in Nashville. Rinne will be back between the pipes Tuesday for the Preds after sitting out Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.
 
 

Paul Gaustad of the Nashville Predators pins Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin to the ice while goalie Pekka Rinne makes the save during Nashville's 5-1 win on Jan. 13, 2015 in Nashville. Rinne will be back between the pipes Tuesday for the Preds after sitting out Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.

Photograph by: Frederick Breedon, Getty Images

More on This Story

 

NASHVILLE — There are tired teams in the National Hockey League playoff race. The most desperate ones just don't show it.

The Calgary Flames, whose surprising grasp on a playoff spot was weakened by a 2-3-2 slide, just swept back-to-back road games against the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars. The Chicago Blackhawks, who had fallen into the wild-card race after losing three out of four games, swept the bruising Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings in the span of 28 hours.

The Vancouver Canucks, desperate to stay ahead of the Flames and Kings in the race for second in the Pacific Division, visit the Nashville Predators tonight (5 p.m., Pacific time, on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040) after a 4-1 road win Monday against the St. Louis Blues ended the Canucks' two-game losing streak.

The Blackhawks await the Canucks on Thursday. The Jets get them on Saturday.

There is no time for Vancouver players to be tired.

"There's nothing to wait for right now," winger Radim Vrbata said after scoring his 31st goal of the season in St. Louis. "There are six games left; we need to be getting points. I think we've been doing a great job on the road the whole season, and against some big teams in buildings that are not easy to play in."

But the Canucks haven't yet checked the Predators off their list.

In a season that has seen Vancouver play beyond what skeptics thought and win games against nearly every top team in the NHL, the Canucks are 0-2 against the Central Division-leading Predators and were pounded 5-1 in Nashville on Jan. 13.

At 28-8-2, the Predators have the second-best home record in the league. Making things harder for the Canucks tonight will be Nashville's Vezina Trophy-candidate goalie Pekka Rinne, who was rested when the Predators lost 5-2 Sunday to the Flames.

Nashville coach Peter Laviolette used Carter Hutton against the Flames, and the backup was beaten four times on 29 shots and looked suspect on a couple of goals.

"I think that stuff evens out throughout the year," Canucks winger Daniel Sedin said of facing Rinne after the Flames, two points behind Vancouver, got Hutton. "We've seen a lot of teams in our building in back-to-back games the last few weeks, so we can't really complain about that.

"They're a good team. We'll be up to the challenge. I think we're playing better than we were when we played them earlier."

The Canucks flew to Nashville after beating the Blues and had no skate scheduled for this morning.

The Predators have had a day to prepare, but have some huge lineup question marks. Superstar defencemen Shea Weber and key winger James Neal have been out day-to-day with injuries.

After missing the playoffs the last two seasons, Nashville's run at the top of the NHL standings this season has been one of the bigger surprises in the league. Sunday's loss ended a four-game winning streak, but the Predators are just 6-9-1 the last five weeks.

The Canucks swept back-to-back games two weekends ago, but the Predators are a far more daunting second-night opponent than were the Arizona Coyotes.

Vancouver is 3-6-2 this season on the second night of back-to-back games. This is the last time the Canucks will play on consecutive nights.

Coach Willie Desjardins declined to name his starting goalie before travelling to Nashville, but fill-in starter Eddie Lack stopped 23 of 24 shots against the Blues and is expected to be chosen again over backup Jacob Markstrom.

"Same game plan as St. Louis: get pucks in, play good defence and capitalize on our chances," defenceman Chris Tanev said. "It was awesome to get the win right off the bat (to start the road trip). Now we've got to follow it up."

• INJURIES:

Predators: D Shea Weber (lower body), LW James Neal (upper body) and C Matt Cullen (lower body) are questionable, and LW Eric Nystrom (lower body) is out.

Canucks: G Ryan Miller (knee), C Brad Richardson (ankle), RW Zack Kassian (back) are out.

imacintyre@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/imacvansun

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Paul Gaustad of the Nashville Predators pins Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin to the ice while goalie Pekka Rinne makes the save during Nashville's 5-1 win on Jan. 13, 2015 in Nashville. Rinne will be back between the pipes Tuesday for the Preds after sitting out Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.
 

Paul Gaustad of the Nashville Predators pins Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin to the ice while goalie Pekka Rinne makes the save during Nashville's 5-1 win on Jan. 13, 2015 in Nashville. Rinne will be back between the pipes Tuesday for the Preds after sitting out Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.

Photograph by: Frederick Breedon, Getty Images

 
Paul Gaustad of the Nashville Predators pins Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin to the ice while goalie Pekka Rinne makes the save during Nashville's 5-1 win on Jan. 13, 2015 in Nashville. Rinne will be back between the pipes Tuesday for the Preds after sitting out Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.
St. Louis Blues’ Jaden Schwartz, right, and Vancouver Canucks’ Luca Sbisa, of Italy, chase after a loose puck.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack, of Sweden, deflects a shot against the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis Blues’ Zbynek Michalek, right, prepares to block a shot from Vancouver Canucks’ Henrik Sedin, left, of Sweden.
St. Louis Blues’ Steve Ott, right, controls the puck as Vancouver Canucks’ Linden Vey watches.
St. Louis Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo, left, and Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Higgins chase after a loose puck.
St. Louis Blues centre Jori Lehtera, left, competes for the puck against Vancouver Canucks defenceman Luca Sbisa.
St. Louis Blues’ Zbynek Michalek, of the Czech Republic, is congratulated by teammates Olli Jokinen, left, of Finland, and David Backes, right, after scoring against the Vancouver Canucks.
St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, right, gets past Vancouver Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler.
Vancouver Canucks’ Bo Horvat, right, controls the puck as St. Louis Blues, from left, Jay Bouwmeester, Brian Elliott and Dmitrij Jaskin, of Russia, defend.
Vancouver Canucks’ Jannik Hansen, of Denmark, controls the puck as St. Louis Blues’ Patrik Berglund, left, of Sweden, defends.
Vancouver Canucks’ Alexander Edler, of Sweden, falls over St. Louis Blues’ Paul Stastny, right, as they chase after a loose puck.
Vancouver Canucks’ Shawn Matthias, top left, scores past St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott as Blues’ T.J. Oshie (74) and Kevin Shattenkirk (22) watch.
Vancouver Canucks’ Alexander Edler, of Sweden, falls over St. Louis Blues’ Paul Stastny, right, as they chase after a loose puck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice