Following a close home win against the Arizona Coyotes, the Vancouver Canucks will look to make it two in a row when they host the San Jose Sharks tonight.
The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks are once heading into completely different directions, but this time, the roles have reversed.
Vancouver has missed the postseason in four consecutive years, and in five of the last six overall. As for the Sharks, they were a powerhouse in the Western Conference, having qualified for the postseason every year from 2016 to 2019.
While the Canucks began a slow rebuilding phase in 2016, the Sharks were competing in the Stanley Cup Final — eventually losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Last season, San Jose fell just two games short of reaching the Stanley Cup — losing to the St. Louis Blues in six games during the Western Conference Final.
But this time, the Canucks are the ones who are vying for a playoff spot — as well as the Pacific Division title. Entering play on Saturday, they trailed the Pacific Division-leading Calgary Flames by just one point, and Vancouver has a game in hand.
The Sharks, meanwhile, are fighting to avoid the Western Conference basement. They enter play the game with a 21-24-4 record, failing to make much progress since hiring Bob Boughner to replace former head coach Pete DeBoer. Can they play spoiler against the Canucks? We’ll find out soon enough.
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Players to watch
Elias Pettersson: Pettersson is once again leading the Canucks in goals (21) and points (50). He had two points in Thursday’s win against the Coyotes. Pettersson has nine points in the month of January (eight games).
Evander Kane: The 28-year-old returns to his hometown, needing just one more goal to hit the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his career. Kane had a goal and an assist in the Dec. 14 meeting against Vancouver, a 4-2 victory for the Sharks.
Quinn Hughes: He’s having a rookie season for the ages, having earned an All-Star selection for Team Pacific. Hughes is also in the running for the Calder Trophy, with 33 points in 47 games. He had an assist in the Dec. 14 loss to San Jose, and Hughes picked up a helper in Thursday’s tilt with Arizona.
Tomas Hertl: The Sharks’ struggles in 2019-20 are not because of Hertl. The reliable forward has 15 goals and 35 points this season. Hertl has cooled down a bit, however, with just two assists in his last five outings. He hasn’t scored a goal since Jan. 2, but you know he’ll be a handful for Vancouver’s defenders.
Prediction: 3-2 Canucks
The Sharks dominated at Rogers Arena for the better part of the last decade, but times have changed drastically. Vancouver has won seven straight at Rogers Arena, with their last home loss taking place on Dec. 17.
Vancouver is simply better than San Jose in every phase right now, and it’s hard to pick against a surging team that has absolutely dominated on home ice. Let’s give Vancouver a 3-2 win here, with captain Bo Horvat potting the game-winner midway through the third period.