NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, February 8th
(All times Eastern)
Vancouver Canucks (27-23-9) at Toronto Maple Leafs (31-22-6), 6 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The free-falling Vancouver Canucks have one last chance
to end a lengthy slide before the Olympic break, as they visit the Toronto
Maple Leafs on Saturday in the final day of NHL action before the 2014 Sochi
The Canucks have lost six straight games in regulation, marking the first time
the club has suffered through an 0-6 stretch since March 13-25, 1999.
Vancouver last lost seven straight in regulation during the same season, going
0-7 from Dec. 26-Jan. 6 during the 1998-99 campaign.
Vancouver hasn't had a seven-game slide of any kind since an eight-game losing
streak (0-5-3) from Jan. 9-31, 2009.
The current slide began while head coach John Tortorella was serving a 15-day
suspension, but the return of the fiery bench boss has done little to change
things. Vancouver has lost three straight since the coach finished his league-
mandated ban for trying to start in altercation with Calgary head coach Bob
Hartley on Jan. 18.
The slide has dropped Vancouver out of the eighth spot in the Western
Conference, as Phoenix took over possession of the conference's final playoff
berth with a win over Chicago on Friday. The Canucks are one point in back of
the Coyotes in ninth place.
Phoenix visits Dallas on Saturday. The Stars are one point behind Vancouver in
the West's 10th spot.
The Canucks have scored a total of three goals since Tortorella's return and
two of those markers came in Thursday's 5-2 loss in Montreal. Max Pacioretty
registered a hat trick to lead the Canadiens to the lopsided home win at the
Chris Higgins and Alexander Edler scored one goal apiece for the Canucks,
while Roberto Luongo allowed four goals on 28 shots in the setback.
Vancouver trailed 2-0 after the first period, but was able to cut the deficit
to one after Higgins scored a power-play goal at 2:31 of the second. The score
remained 2-1 until Pacioretty notched his second marker of the game at 4:45 of
"Their third goal was off a puck just sitting there and that surprised a lot
of people around the net. That hurt us, we needed to tie the game up," said
Vancouver is closing a five-game road trip on Saturday and the club is just
13-14-4 as the visiting team this season. The Canucks will open their post-
Olympic schedule on a three-game homestand, beginning with a matchup against
St. Louis on Feb. 26.
The Canucks won't have captain Henrik Sedin tonight and the Swedish star will
also miss the upcoming Olympic tournament in Sochi due to bruised ribs.
Defenseman Dan Hamhuis also may miss a third straight game on Saturday with an
Vancouver has one thing going in its favor on Saturday and that is the club's
recent dominance over the Maple Leafs. The Canucks have won 11 straight in the
series since Toronto last picked up a victory on Nov. 24, 2003 at Air Canada
Centre. Vancouver has claimed five straight on the road since the Leafs won
that meeting over a decade ago.
The Canucks earned a 4-0 win over a visiting Toronto club on Nov. 2 of this
season as Luongo stopped 21 shots to record the shutout. Luongo is 14-6-0 with
a 2.27 goals against average in his career against the Leafs.
While Vancouver attempts to halt an epic slide on Saturday, the Maple Leafs
will try to head into the Olympic break by winning for the fifth time in six
Toronto, which currently occupies the seventh seed in the East, rebounded
from Tuesday's 4-1 loss at Florida by winning by the same score Thursday
evening in Tampa. The Leafs scored three times in the third period to back a
31-save performance from Jonathan Bernier in the win over the Lightning at
Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Jay McClement, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak all lit the lamp during the
final frame, with Phil Kessel assisting on two of the tallies to help the
Leafs to a fourth win in five games.
"Outside of the first 10 minutes I thought we played a pretty solid game,"
Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle remarked. "We gave up some chances but we
created some chances with our forecheck."
The Maple Leafs are four points ahead of eighth-seeded Detroit in the East and
Carlyle's club also is tied for third place in the Atlantic Division with
Montreal. However, the Canadiens, who are visiting Carolina on Saturday, hold
the tiebreaker over Toronto due to having played on less game so far this
The top three teams in each division earn automatic bids to the postseason.
Toronto enters Saturday on a six-game home winning streak and the club hasn't
lost at Air Canada Centre since Jan. 7 against the New York Islanders. The
Leafs, who will visit the Islanders on Feb. 27 in their first game after the
Olympics, boast a 20-10-1 record on home ice this season.
02/08 16:02:16 ET