Vancouver Canucks (21-9-2) at Nashville Predators (18-13-0)
When/where: Tuesday, 5 p.m., Bridgestone Arena
TV: SN Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650
The buzz: The Canucks continue to grind out points, especially when starting slow before gathering their game in the second period. It’s how they stretched their enviable record to 18-0-0 when leading after two periods Sunday, by hanging in and holding on for a 4-3 win at Chicago against the cellar-dwellers.
Brock Boeser snapped a 2-2 struggle with his 23rd goal when he sped down the left wing and released a wrist shot that found the far glove side. It packed velocity and accuracy and moved the winger back into the NHL lead for goals with Auston Matthews. Boeser also leads all shooters with nine power-play goals.
Boeser is on pace for 61 goals — the previous high was 29 in his 2017-18 rookie season — and being happy, healthy, stronger and willing to get to tough areas has propelled him into rarefied air. A complete player that Rick Tocchet trusts keeps his feet on the ground and not in the clouds.
The history: The Canucks are 2-0-0 against the Predators this season. They hung in for a 3-2 win in Music City on Oct. 24 to cap an encouraging 3-2-0 road trip and had a dominant 5-2 triumph at Rogers Arena on Halloween. At Nashville, early second-period goals by Phil Di Giuseppe and Nils Hoglander provided a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes. Ilya Mikheyev had four shots and seven attempts. At Vancouver, the Canucks dug a 3-1 first-period hole and rallied on the fifth career hat trick by Elias Pettersson.
The hope: After back-to-back day games that resulted in sleepy starts at outset of this four-game sojourn, a return to routine should make a difference. Players are creatures of habit. They should have their legs early after an off day Monday. The improving Predators are on a four-game winning streak.
The fear: Penalty kill continues to struggle. The Canucks surrendered two power-play goals Sunday to a unit that entered that was at just 9.8 per cent on home ice. The Predators are 5-0-0 in games that go past regulation and Filip Forsberg has three overtime goals.
The top guns: The Fab Four continues to dominate league scoring. J.T. Miller is third with 45 points (15-30) and seven power-play goals. Quinn Hughes and Pettersson are tied for eighth with 39 points. Hughes has 30 assists that ranks third and Pettersson has five PP goals. Boeser is 12th with 37 points (23-14).
The wounded: Canucks: Carson Soucy (foot, six to eight weeks, LTIR), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion, LTIR). Predators: Kiefer Sherwood (upper body, day-to-day), Egor Afansasyev (undisclosed, IR).
The quote: “It just came down to will and effort. We didn’t like our effort in the first period and we had a good response. We found a way and that’s all that really matters.” — Boeser on outlasting the Blackhawks.
The projected lineup:
The prediction: The Canucks answer the bell and play hard to draw penalties. A confusing power play that should pack more punch ends a so-so 3-for-19 run in previous six games to fuel a 4-2 victory.
(FAN FORUM: Do you have a specific question for a player? Pass it along to @provincesports and we’ll get it in a future edition.)
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