Carol Schram: Vancouver Canucks Game Review/Game Day: Smacking Flyers, Hurricanes Up Next

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Thursday January 15 – Vancouver Canucks 4 – Philadelphia Flyers 0

The losing streak is over! The goal-scoring drought has ended! Children can smile again: all is right with the world.

Here are the highlights from Vancouver’s 4-0 shutout win over Philadelphia on Thursday:

Though the Canucks couldn’t take advantage of Calgary third-stringer Joni Ortio last week, or Nashville backup Carter Hutton on Tuesday, they didn’t treat Philly backup Ray Emery quite so kindly.

Nick Bonino’s spin-o-rama goal and Henrik Sedin’s tasty power-play tip gave the Canucks a 2-0 first-period lead, ignited the ire of the Flyers fans and basically sucked the fight out of the home team.

Emery was pulled early in the second period after Radim Vrbata added a second power-play marker, allowing three goals on 12 shots. His replacement, Rob Zepp, was victimized on a Jannik Hansen breakaway on the first shot he faced, and that was enough for the Canucks to steer home the win.

The win came after a few tweaks to the lineup. In addition to Ryan Miller’s return—and he did have a strong game, stopping 30 shots and making one especially key save on Brayden Schenn late in the second period—Shawn Matthias was moved onto a line with Nick Bonino and Linden Vey while Brad Richardson centered Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins.

That left Zack Kassian as the healthy scratch—and another round of trade rumours swirling around the big forward.

Jim Benning addressed the issue in a radio conversation on TSN1040 this morning. If you missed it, Thomas Drance has the summary and some analysis here at The Score.

Benning’s non-commital, but certainly doesn’t quash the idea that a deal could be made.

Zack’s a young player, a power forward-style player, we’ll listen to what teams say, but he’s not unlike a lot of other of our players that teams phone and inquire about.

If something comes up where we think it’s a good deal for us or something, then we’ll do it if we make the organization better.

TSN’s Jon Abbott caught up with Kassian, who was a little more forthcoming than he has typically been with the media of late—and is toeing the party line.

One more #Canucks Kassian: ‘I’m a Vancouver Canuck. I love it here. Especially the guys here. I’m not thinking too much about that stuff.’

— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) January 16, 2015

I’m not sure Kassian will get a chance to draw back in tonight after the win—and as Linden Vey continues to make a case for himself as an everyday play. With that, let’s look at the scene-set for tonight’s game against the Hurricanes—which is just a few hours away. Friday January 16 – Vancouver Canucks at Carolina Hurricanes – 4:00 p.m. – Sportsnet

Vancouver Canucks: 24-15-3, 51 points, third in Pacific Division

Carolina Hurricanes: 14-24-5, 33 points, eighth in Metropolitan Division

Now, the question is whether the Canucks can keep it going tonight in Raleigh. There are only six games on the schedule tonight, none of which feature the teams Vancouver is fighting for playoff position, so a win would push the Canucks back into second place in the Pacific Division (before an idle weekend when the Sharks, Kings and Flames would get their chance to catch up).

The Canucks took an optional skate this morning. Here’s what we know so far about tonight’s lineup:

Optional skate for #canucks. Hamhuis will play versus #canes and I believe Corrado is in too. Miller likely to start although not confirmed.

— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) January 16, 2015

Interesting that Ryan Miller sounds like he’s ready to defy conventional wisdom and go for back-to-back starts. The Canucks really do seem to score more when Miller’s in net—much to the frustration of poor Eddie Lack. I’m curious to see if this move pays off.

We knew Dan Hamhuis was targeting this game for a return to the lineup. If Murph’s right and Corrado plays as well, that means two members of the usual core would sit.

My best guess would be this set-up:

Hamhuis-Bieksa

Edler-Tanev

Sbisa-Corrado

scratched: Weber and Stanton

I think Ryan Stanton has had a pretty decent season this year. I know he has his critics, but I feel like a lot of the tight spots he’s been recently have been the result of trying to cover for some of the defensive gaffes made by his partner, Bieksa.

But, I’m thinking that Willie will want to go with the old classic Hamhuis-Bieksa pairing as Dan returns to the lineup. The easiest way to make that happen will be to ask Stanton to step aside and make space.

One other head-scratcher to ponder while we’re here: how is it true that Bieksa and Sbisa have been an excellent and effective penalty-killing pair, but were a nightmare when they played together five-on-five? Is it because the roles on the PK are more clearly defined, with less temptation to go rogue?

Anyway—I imagine we’ll see Hamhuis back on the penalty-kill tonight as well. He was injured on November 20, so the final tally comes in at just over eight weeks.

As for the Hurricanes: they’re having another tough season, but their fortunes have improved recently, since Jordan Staal returned from injury.

Carolina’s 5-4-1 in its last 10 games—exactly the same record as Vancouver—and are undefeated on home ice in 2015, with a 4-0 record. They last played at home on Tuesday, when they beat Colorado 3-2.

The Canucks will see Cam Ward in net tonight.

Cam Ward in the nets tonight, Nestrasil in for Malone are the only changes for the #Canes from Tuesday’s lineup.

— Mike Maniscalco (@mikemaniscalco) January 16, 2015

Ward has had a bounce-back year after a terrible 2013-14 season. Despite Carolina’s poor record, his numbers aren’t too bad: a 2.40 goals-against and .913 save percentage.

The game is on the national Sportsnet network, starting at 4:00. Enjoy!

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