Preview: Ottawa at Vancouver
When: 10:00 PM ET, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia
At least one Canadian team has reached the Stanley Cup playoffs in the last 45 seasons, but that streak is in serious jeopardy as the Ottawa Senators visit the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday in a clash of 11th-place teams. Ottawa sits four points behind Pittsburgh for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but has played two more games than the Penguins while Vancouver trails Colorado by 10 points in the West with four contests in hand on the Avalanche.
The Senators kicked off a three-game road trip through western Canada with a 4-1 victory over Edmonton on Tuesday for their fourth straight win. “We want to keep this thing going, because we still have a lot of work to do,” Ottawa center Curtis Lazar told reporters. “Winning is fun and confidence can be a scary thing, but we can’t look too far ahead. The game against Vancouver is going to be big, and anytime the puck drops we have to be ready to go.” The Canucks snapped a four-game slide – all 5-2 losses – with a 5-1 victory over Colorado on Sunday that began a five-game homestand and snapped a six-game losing streak (0-5-1) at Rogers Arena. Vancouver needs Ryan Miller to stay hot after his 37-save performance prompted Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, who knows a thing or two about goaltending, to tell reporters: “It’s probably one of the better performances I’ve seen from a goaltender against us this year.”
TV: 10 p.m. ET, RDS, TSN5 (Ottawa), Sportsnet Pacific (Vancouver)
ABOUT THE SENATORS (29-26-6): Zack Smith scored in his last three games and has a career-high 15 goals – one of eight Senators with 10 or more. Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan pace the team with 24 and 20 goals, respectively, while defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the NHL with 54 assists and is fourth in the league with a team-best 65 points. Chris Wideman, a 26-year-old rookie defenseman who has five goals and nine points in 44 games this season, signed a two-year, one-way contract extension worth $1.6 million Wednesday.
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (23-24-12): Daniel Sedin leads the team with 22 goals and 52 points after recording three assists Sunday and has seven assists in his last four contests as part of a five-game point streak. Radim Vrbata, who has 12 goals this season after scoring 31 in 2014-15, isn’t expected to play after leaving Sunday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Markus Granlund, a 22-year-old center, is expected to make his Vancouver debut after he was acquired from Calgary on Monday as the former second-round pick compiled four goals and seven points in 31 games with the Flames this season.
1. Vrbata and teammate Bo Horvat (10 goals, 26 points) are an NHL-worst minus-32 and minus-30, respectively.
2. Vancouver continues its five-game homestand with its first meeting of the season against Pacific Division rival San Jose on Sunday as the Canucks and Sharks play their five-game series in a 33-day span with the initial three contests in seven days.
3. Ottawa, which prevailed 3-2 at home Nov. 12 in the opener of the two-game season series, has lost six of its last seven contests in Vancouver.
PREDICTION: Canucks 3, Senators 2