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GAME DAY PREVIEW: Vancouver Canucks vs New Jersey Devils - Nov. 1/17

Canucks look to further hot streak versus surging Devils

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Vancouver Canucks
Taylor Hall scoring on Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks vs New Jersey Devils

7:00 PST, Roger’s Arena, Vancouver, B.C.

TV: SN360 Radio: SN650

The Canucks’ four game win streak came to an end with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday. Despite a strong effort, specifically from Jacob Markstrom, they fell just short of the two points.

However, they’ve still picked up points in five consecutive contests, and sit third in the Pacific Division with a record of 6-3-1, good for 14 points (behind the Los Angeles Kings with 19, and the Vegas Golden Knights with 16). The team is playing exciting hockey worth watching, and doing so while relying on a group of strong young talent. Meanwhile, Sam Gagner finally scored his first with the club, while Markstrom played arguably his best game of the season.

The team’s leading scorer, Brock Boeser, missed the game with a foot injury, leading to the insertion of fan-favorite Jayson Megna into the lineup. Anton Rodin, who was also called up from Utica, sat in the press box, as has been tradition over the course of his North American ice hockey career.

Among other strong performances against the Stars were Ben Hutton, who has turned his game around recently, and Alex Biega (otherwise known as “The Bulldog”). Chris Tanev, of course, continues to serve as a stalwart on the blue line.

They’ll have a challenge on their hands with the New Jersey Devils, who have been among the biggest surprises of the league to-date. Indeed, for those who want a challenge for the Canucks, the Devils are just that.

The Opposition

The Devils, after being pegged as a major lottery contender, have gone 8-2-0 to start the season, ranking first in the Metropolitan Division, and fourth in the entire National Hockey League.

The team is being led by a pair of star rookies. Defenceman Will Butcher, signed as a college free agent, has an astonishing 11 points in 10 games. Meanwhile, out-of-nowhere forward drafted in the sixth round in 2016, has 10 points in 10 games. 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier also boasts a very respectable seven points in 10 games. At this rate, the Devils look to be the Toronto Maple Leafs of 2017, riding on rookie success to team prosperity.

Taylor Hall, last year’s blockbuster acquisition, has 13 points in 10 games, while former Calder nominee Adam Henrique has a solid eight points in 10 contests. The likes of Kyle Palmieri and Brian Gibbons have also put up strong numbers, with seven points apiece (in seven and 10 games respectively).

Keith Kinkaid has played decently in place of the now-healed Cory Schneider, with a .910 save percentage and 2.62 GAA. With Schneider, a former Canuck that landed them the Bo Horvat pick in 2013, now ready to play, it’s possible he will start against the Canucks tonight.

The Canucks

The major lineup storyline heading into tonight’s game will be the health of Brock Boeser. With nine points in eight games, he leads the team in points, and is among the league’s rookie scoring leaders at this point of the season. He’s also a shot machine, leading the Canucks to a top ten placement in score-adjusted five-on-five shot share.

Or maybe we just get to see Megna again. It’s a win-win, really. If Boeser isn’t healthy yet, expect to see Gagner play once again on the top line alongside Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi.

The top unit power play continues to do a whole lot of nothing, so as per usual, expect absolutely no changes. It really is absurd how resistant Travis Green has been to change this unit, because it’s been the exact opposite for the rest of the lineup.

Look for the Sedins and Jake Virtanen to remain a line, because, as little as the twins have produced, Virtanen has been by far the best fit this season. One player to watch will be Alex Burmistrov. He’s been largely seen as the most likely to come out in place of the now healthy Brendan Gaunce, and eventually Loui Eriksson as well, but it will be tough do so if he has a strong next few outings.

The blue line looks to remain the same, with Hutton alongside Chris “babysitter” Tanev, Michael Del Zotto with Erik Gudbranson, and Derrick Pouliot with Biega.

As per usual, no one knows who will start. At this point I would guess Markstrom, based off the reliance of a “two games at a time” pattern, as well as a strong outing against Dallas. However, there’s a case to be made for Anders Nilsson, who’s been going as well lately.

Game Day Battle Hymn

The 2016-17 was largely unwatchable, particularly towards the end of the season, but a month in 2017-18, the team ranks 10th in the NHL, and looked good doing it. So much so that they’ve received praise from a few opposing head coaches now on their performance.

Even #tanknation is getting in on it. It’s fun to see, and it feels as if there’s finally some buzz around the hockey club. Horvat’s playing well, as is Baertschi, as is Hutton, as is Boeser, as is Biega, as is Dorsett, and as are the goalies. Indeed, when it does rain, it pours for this Canucks team so far.