Vancouver Canucks gameday: A meeting with the Florida Panthers

Two of the NHL’s hottest teams will face off at Rogers Arena tonight. Here’s your Vancouver Canucks vs. Florida panthers game preview.

The Vancouver Canucks will face one of their greatest challenges yet on the young season tonight, as they prepare for a showdown with the surging Florida Panthers.

Both teams have missed the playoffs in each of the last three years. The Canucks and Panthers each made plenty of big-time offseason acquisitions, adding talent around their young cores in hopes of taking that next step.

So far, the blockbuster moves have paid off for both clubs. The Canucks are 6-3-1 and only four points out of first place in the Pacific Division. The Panthers are on an eight-game point streak, with wins in three of their last four games.

Florida is coming off a statement 6-2 road win against the Edmonton Oilers, who sit atop the Pacific. The Canucks will look to redeem themselves after blowing a 5-1 lead on home ice to the Washington Capitals on Friday, en route to a 6-5 shootout loss.

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Players to watch

J.T. Miller: Is it a stretch to say he’s been the biggest impact offseason acquisition up to this point? The 26-year-old has four goals and 11 points on the season, with a ridiculous 62.3 Corsi For percentage. Miller has recorded three assists over his last two games.

Jonathan Huberdeau: Coming off a career-best 92-point season, Huberdeau has been arguably Florida’s best so far. He has five goals and 13 points through 11 games.

Bo Horvat: Remember when the captain started out slow? That feels like a lifetime ago. The captain has four goals and two assists over his last six games. The Canucks will also rely on Horvat to shut down Florida’s top weapons up front.

Aleksander Barkov: Here’s a weird stat to tell your friends: Barkov has 13 points in 11 games, and they’re all assists. That’s right, he hasn’t even scored a goal yet. But who’s complaining? The 24-year-old is producing as an elite offensive playmaker anyway.

Prediction: 3-2 Canucks (shootout)

These are the toughest matchups to predict. You have two red hot teams with a good mix of young superstars and veteran impact players. But the Canucks had two full days of rest ahead of this showdown, whereas Florida will be playing its second game in as many days.

This will be a tight defensive game throughout, and 65 minutes will solve nothing. The Canucks will come away with a 3-2 shootout victory. Brock Boeser records a goal, an assist and the shootout winner as Vancouver moves to 7-3-1 on the season.