After a disappointing game against the Oilers, the Predators will look to make up ground in the standings against the Canucks—who are also clawing for playoff position despite being first in the Pacific. The West is an interesting place to be this time of year.
The Vancouver Canucks
Brock Boeser left Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury; his status is unknown for tonight. He’s a big loss to the Canucks if he is missing; as one of their better play-drivers and tied for third in team scoring, he makes a positive impact at both ends of the ice, as well as on the scoresheet.
Elias Pettersson leads the team in goals (23) and points (55), is one back of J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes for assists (with 32), and is tilting the ice like the revenge of the Titanic. Miller, meanwhile, has exploded offensively, with huge impacts in the offensive zone and 54 points of his own (21G/33A). The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t need to give him the kind of icetime the Canucks have, and that’s contributed to his surge now, but some of it is just that he’s playing better.
Boeser is the third player on their line when he’s healthy, while Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson are contributing on the second line to round out most of a solid top-six. Rookie defender Hughes is tied for the team lead in assists with 33, has added 8 goals, but is not yet the shutdown guy in his own zone that his coaches probably hope he’ll develop into. The kid’s 20; he has time—and, as Canucks players go, he’s not that bad defensively.
Jacob Markstrom is having a solid season in net, with a .914 all-situations sv%, while Thatcher Demko has been a capable backup with a .909. For 2019-20, that’s actually good goaltending from both of them; the Canucks are getting some help there. Their special teams have met with above-average success, thanks to good shooting on the power play and good goaltending on the penalty kill—both the power play and the penalty kill themselves aren’t great, with a lot more shots happening against on the PK than for on the PP.
However, the Canucks enter tonight on a four-game losing streak, having allowed at least four goals in each of their last three games while scoring only four of their own total over that span. You’d expect them to bounce back at some point, but they haven’t been playing great at either end of the ice all year, so this might just be the way things are. The Canucks have one standings point and one game in hand on the Golden Knights, one standings point and minus-one games in hand on the Oilers, and would be fourth in the Central Division—space is very tight at the top of the Pacific, and while there’s no good time of the season to go on a cold streak, this could easily be viewed as a bad time.
It is Sedin Week, as Henrik and Daniel Sedin are honored at the Canucks’ home arena, so you might expect that to motivate the players—or you might expect it to work out as well as Saturday games at Bridgestone have for the Preds lately. There’s a lot of guesswork involved, and this one could go either way.
The Nashville Predators
Ryan Ellis has been spotted on the ice, and might be returning soon—but we don’t know how soon, or how well he’ll be playing when he does. It’s never a good idea to rush back from a head injury, especially when it’s not your first, so I do hope Ellis takes as long as he needs. We miss him, and the Preds miss him, but ultimately hockey is just a game.
Calle Jarnkrok has missed several games with an illness, and his status is also unknown.
Kyle Turris and Mikael Granlund had an off night on Saturday, with Turris’s skate taking a starring role for the wrong team, but fortunately noted goal-scorer Nick Bonino was there to pick up the slack, getting his 17th of the season (!) from Dan Hamhuis. He remains one behind Filip Forsberg for the team’s goal-scoring lead. Craig Smith, who also scored in Saturday’s loss, has been playing very well this season despite low point totals—which feels like it sums up an awful lot of Smith’s career. Granlund has also been fantastic of late, and it’s been good to see him starting to get rewarded for his excellent play under Hynes’s coaching.
As for the goaltending, it might finally be on the upswing. With his last two games, Juuse Saros has dragged his sv% above .900 for the first time all season and is now the proud owner of a .902, while Pekka Rinne...well, he turned in a fantastic performance in his last outing against the Golden Knights, at least, but he has struggled this season.
Reasons to Watch
- C’mon, you don’t really want to get up for work tomorrow, right?
How to Watch
The game starts at 9PM Central and will air on FS-TN, or you can listen to the radio call on 102.5 The Game.
Numerical statistics from hockey-reference.com. Other material referenced from hockeyviz.com.