Canucks gameday: Beat the best to be the best


The Vancouver Canucks return home and welcome the Arizona Coyotes to Rogers Arena as they look to gain ground on the Pacific Division leaders.

Coming into Thursday night’s game, the Vancouver Canucks trail the Pacific Division-leading Arizona Coyotes by just three points.

The Canucks will be playing their 48th game of the season, while Arizona prepares to hit the 50-game mark. Vancouver has two games in hand, and a regulation win would result in a monumental four-point swing.

Every point matters in the tightly contested Pacific Division. Vancouver has two games left before a nine-day break for the 2020 All-Star Game, and a couple wins would go a very long way. Head coach Travis Green will do good to make sure his players shed some blood, sweat and tears before they head off for a short vacation.

In 2018-19, Vancouver couldn’t buy a single win against Arizona, going 0-2-2 in the season series Two of those games were overtime losses on home ice, and the road contests were 4-1 and 5-2 defeats. Arizona is tight defensively, and they love to pounce on your mistakes. Vancouver must find an answer.

Players to Watch

Elias Pettersson: The 21-year-old will look to get Vancouver back in the win column they only way he knows how: By scoring goals. He has 21 goals on the year, but Pettersson was shutout by Connor Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. This was despite registering five shots on goal with multiple scoring opportunities missed. That doesn’t sit well with Petey, and he should rebound and find the score sheet.

Taylor Hall: The man everyone likes to trade has landed in Arizona. He has managed to tally six goals and 13 points already through 14 games played, and Hall quite the superstar addition for a club that’s built off a strong team game. He is on fire, scoring five points in his last two outings. Shutting him down will be key in a Vancouver win.

Bo Horvat: It will be interesting to see if Horvat can rally the troops and finally get a much-needed win against a divisional foe. The team can’t afford to go winless again in all four meetings this season. Horvat needs to play his best hockey, and he’ll be tasked by coach Green to shut down the opposition’s top line. Add in a game-winning goal for the captain and that just might silence the howling Coyotes.

Phil Kessel: The thrill, as many people know him by, will look to build off an impressive three-point night against the San Jose Sharks. He notched his 10th and 11th goals of the season during a 6-3 blowout victory. Arizona needs him to continue to roll, as he has only managed 30 points this season.

Prediction: 6-5 Canucks (shootout)

The Canucks peppered the Jets with 41 shots on Tuesday, but they didn’t manage a single goal. Having scored five-plus goals in 17 games this season, Vancouver should come out guns blazing, looking to make up for a lack of scoring in Winnipeg. The power play can’t slide forever.

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If a single man advantage is awarded in Vancouver’s favour, look for them to make the most of it and penetrate the opposing net. They’ll take care of business in a shootout to pick up the valuable two points.