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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, October 3rd (All times Eastern)

Vancouver Canucks (0-0-0) at San Jose Sharks (0-0-0), 10 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - After getting swept out of the first round of the 2013 playoffs by the San Jose Sharks, the Vancouver Canucks decided it was time for a change.

That led to the Canucks hiring John Tortorella as their new head coach and he makes his debut on Thursday night against the Sharks.

Vancouver reached the postseason in six of its seven seasons under Alain Vigneault, a run that included six division titles (including the club's fifth straight Northwest title in 2013), back-to-back Presidents Trophies in 2010-11 and 2011-12, and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. However, last spring marked the Canucks' second straight first-round exit, so general manager Mike Gillis cut bait with Vigneault.

Vigneault landed on his feet with the New York Rangers, who in a twist of fate has fired Tortorella, making him available for the Canucks. The fiery bench boss is expected to toughen up the Canucks and make the club more disciplined.

That includes the talented Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, who make their living racking up points. Henrik Sedin led the club with 45 points a season ago, while Daniel was next with 40 points before a big drop-off to Jannik Hansen, who was third on the club with 27 points.

Roberto Luongo will make a some-what surprising start tonight for the Canucks. That didn't seem likely after he opened last season as the backup to Cory Schneider, but after Gillis was unable to trade Luongo and his large contract, Schneider was instead dealt to the New Jersey Devils on draft day.

Luongo did well in the backup role despite playing amidst constant trade rumors and finished 9-6-3 with a 2.56 goals against average and .907 save percentage.

He also went 0-2 with a 2.58 GAA in three playoff games -- two starts -- while Schneider nursed an injury. Although the Canucks were swept by San Jose, the postseason loss could hardly be blamed on Luongo, as Vancouver's offense contributed only eight goals over the four games.

The Canucks are slated to begin the season on the road for only the 13th time in club history, having gone 6-5-1 when kicking off the season as the away club. They won't have Zack Kassian for the first five games of the season as he finishes off his eight-game ban issued during the preseason for a cross- check to the face of Edmonton's San Gagner.

The Sharks will play their first three games of the season at home and are 5-2-1 in their last eight openers. They made the postseason for a ninth straight year and pushed the Los Angeles Kings to seven games before falling in the semifinals.

San Jose opened last season by winning its first seven games, though was plagued by inconsistency afterwards. They'll try to duplicate the fast start, but are without forwards Martin Havlat (groin surgery) and Raffi Torres (torn ACL) while defenseman Brad Stuart is questionable with an unknown injury.

The Sharks appear on the verge of a rebuild, with center Joe Thornton, winger Patrick Marleau and defenseman Dan Boyle all unrestricted free agents at season's end. However, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski were both signed to five-year extensions this past offseason.

Thornton led the Sharks with 33 assists and 40 points last year, while Couture (21 goals), Marleau and Pavelski all finished with 31 points.

San Jose ranked sixth on defense with 2.33 goals against per game and have a workhorse in net in Antti Niemi.

Niemi started 43 games last season and went 24-12-6 with career bests in GAA (2.16) and save percentage (.924). He appeared in 2,580:46 of ice time to lead all NHL goaltenders while earning his first Vezina Trophy nomination.

In addition to the first-round sweep, the Sharks won all three of their regular-season meetings with the Canucks last season. The clubs face off tonight as division rivals, with Vancouver having joined San Jose in the new- look Pacific Division following realignment.

10/03 14:30:58 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UWGB 66
ECU 49
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
LAC
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
LAC
7:00pm Tonight
CLE
ORL
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
POR
7:30pm Tonight
TOR
PHO
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
NYK
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
IND
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
CHI
Final
UWGB 66
ECU 49
Final
WEBER 59
NEV 56
 
2nd
FRES 43
EVAN 47
 
2nd
KYST 77
PURD 70
 
1st
LSU 29
CLEM 23
 
4:00pm Today
ALCOR
DILL
 
1st
CHIST 0
UGST 4
 
4:30pm Today
DET
MDES
5:00pm Tonight
ARZ
MIZZ
5:30pm Tonight
INDST
PEAY
6:00pm Tonight
FLGC
MAR
6:00pm Tonight
LALAF
UWMIL
6:30pm Tonight
ODU
GWEBB
7:00pm Tonight
MD
ARST
7:00pm Tonight
TOL
BUCK
7:00pm Tonight
JMU
COL
 
7:00pm Tonight
WINT
ETST
 
7:00pm Tonight
GSOUT
FIU
7:00pm Tonight
BST
GRAM
 
7:00pm Tonight
APP
HAMP
 
7:00pm Tonight
MAST
JVU
 
7:00pm Tonight
XAV
MURST
7:00pm Tonight
WAKE
NICST
 
7:00pm Tonight
MSU
SCU
7:00pm Tonight
LOU
SAV
7:00pm Tonight
TENT
SELA
 
7:00pm Tonight
VCU
VILL
7:00pm Tonight
OU
WCU
7:30pm Tonight
IND
EWASH
8:00pm Tonight
ILL
BRO
8:00pm Tonight
MSST
CLAYST
 
8:00pm Tonight
BEL
LIP
 
8:00pm Tonight
TCU
MVSU
 
8:00pm Tonight
IOWA
PEPP
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
PVU
 
8:00pm Tonight
KU
RIDE
8:00pm Tonight
BAY
STEPH
 
8:00pm Tonight
INCWORD
A
 
8:30pm Tonight
USF
HAW
8:30pm Tonight
OKST
ORST
9:00pm Tonight
WYO
FAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
YALE
 
9:00pm Tonight
CHAM
PITT
9:00pm Tonight
ILLST
SHU
9:00pm Tonight
NMST
STET
 
9:30pm Tonight
ISU
ALA
9:30pm Tonight
SDKST
CHADRON
 
9:30pm Tonight
NCOL
CCHR
 
9:30pm Tonight
OREG
MICH
10:00pm Tonight
SDU
WMICH
10:05pm Tonight
PORST
SIUE
11:00pm Tonight
AUB
TULSA
11:30pm Tonight
SDST
BYU
7:00pm Tonight
NYI
PHI
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
PIT
7:30pm Tonight
FLA
MIN
7:30pm Tonight
DET
OTT
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
NYJ
8:30pm Tonight
NOS
BAL