New York Islanders (5-6-3) at Vancouver Canucks (11-3-1)
When/where: Wednesday, 7 p.m., Rogers Arena
TV: SN Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650
The buzz: The return of former Canucks captain Bo Horvat will create an obvious and curious arena vibe — cheers and maybe jeers — but the real buzz is the buzz-saw manner in which Vancouver continues to find an ability to reset its structure and discipline during games to ensure one loss doesn’t turn into a string of setbacks. That’s the big buy-in that teams always talk about, but walking the walk is what the Canucks are doing daily.
The history: The Canucks split the season series in 2022-23. They were walloped 6-2 on home ice Jan. 3 and then eked out a 6-5 road decision Feb. 9. In the one-sided loss, the Canucks got poor goaltending from Spencer Martin and surrendered three consecutive second-period goals to overshadow a two-goal performance by Horvat. He finished with four shots, seven shot attempts and went 10-for-17 in the faceoff circle (59 per cent).
In the rematch that featured the traded Horvat and Anthony Beauvillier, it was Elias Pettersson who helped the Canucks rally from a 4-2 deficit with two third-period goals. He had three points, six shot attempts, three hits and two blocked shots. Horvat and Beauvillier scored while Phil Di Giuseppe had a game-high seven shots.
The hope: The Islanders are ripe for the picking. They opened the scoring Monday in Edmonton, but fell 4-1 to extend their losing streak to four games. They have the third-lowest goal output at 2.36 per game and their power play is ranked 24th at 15.9 per cent. And the penalty kill is 25th at a 73.9 per cent. Ouch.
The fear: This one has danger game written all over it, but the Canucks haven’t fallen into that trap this season. They have to contain the Mathew Barzal-Horvat combo. Barzal had the lone goal Monday and his strength and speed through the neutral zone is often followed by sweet Horvat feeds.
The top guns: Pettersson was leading NHL scoring after 15 games with 25 points (7-18), while Quinn Hughes was third with 23 points (5-18) and continues to lead all defencemen in assists and points. J.T. Miller was tied with Hughes with nine goals and 14 assists, and has a team-high five power-play goals.
The wounded: Canucks: Carson Soucy (foot, week-to-week) and Guillaume Brisebois (concussion, LTIR). Islanders: Dylan Kuefler (undisclosed).
The quote: “One thing about this group, if something slips, they recognize it. The next game they usually play pretty well. We played a real solid game (5-2 win Sunday in Montreal), a 200-foot effort by everybody, so pretty pleased.” — Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet.
The prediction: The Canucks need to dictate the early tempo, be hard on the forecheck, get to the net and draw penalties. Their third-ranked power play (31.6 per cent) can then be the difference in a 4-2 win.
(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.)
Recommended from Editorial
Stan Smyl leaving Canucks front office to become team ambassador
Canucks: How driven winger Phil Di Giuseppe became the ultimate survivor
Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add VancouverSun.comand TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.
You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.