Hurting Canucks face difficult stretch
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) reacts after allowing the game-winning goal to Anaheim Ducks right winger Corey Perry (not pictured) in overtime at Honda Center Jan 5, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA. The Ducks won 4-3 in overtime. (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
In what’s being called one of the toughest stretch of opponents, the Vancouver Canucks aren't faring too well so far. The same can be said about their 2014 start.
Winless so far in the new year, the Canucks are faced with the daunting task of trying to end their losing skid against some of the league's best teams. And after a back-to-back this past weekend with a pair of formidable Western foes, Vancouver only managed one point — losing to both the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks.
With both squads ahead of the Canucks in the Western Conference standings, the opportunity was there to make up some points. However, four straight losses keeps them seventh in the conference and fourth in the Pacific Division.
"We've beaten ourselves a little bit," Canucks head coach John Tortorella said following the team's most recent loss to Anaheim. "We've had a lot of struggles in a lot of different areas in the past couple of games. We got to keep our heads up and keep on working on our game and keep on banging away at it."
And it doesn't get easier.
The Pittsburgh Penguins come to town Tuesday for their lone visit, bringing with them the Eastern Conference's top record and 16 wins in their last 19 games. Making the Canucks task more difficult is the presence of the league's top scorer, Sidney Crosby, who has 63 points in 44 games. Then there's the St. Louis Blues on Friday at home before two more on the road — again against those same Kings and Ducks.
Oh, and the injuries are also piling up for Vancouver.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo is day-to-day after being bowled over against the Kings on Saturday. Forward Chris Higgins sat out Sunday's match with the flu, while Zack Kassian left the game after being accidently kicked in the head by teammate Tom Sestito and didn’t return.
Longer term is Alex Burrows who is still recovering from a broken jaw, while a trio of defencemen, Alex Edler (knee), Ryan Stanton (ankle) and Andrew Alberts (suspected concussion), are all out.
"I never want to use any excuse but we're a little bit beat up," Tortorella admitted. "We're playing a different level of teams, especially the past couple of nights. But we have some work to do, not just our defenceman but our team defence."
The Canucks have given up a combined 98 shots in the last two games — 49 a piece for a pair of season highs. In return they have generated 48 shots total during that span, making it rather difficult to gain any traction when the other side is peppering the Canucks net with pucks all night long.
"We had a really good start … but we have not been able to sustain it," Tortorella said. "We got to find a way to do that both defensively and quite honestly, offensively to get some pressure off our defence. That's a big problem of ours right now, in the second half of the game we're just not holding onto the puck offensively and not establishing ourselves with the forecheck so we're spending a lot of time in our own zone."
The Canucks will have another player headed to the Olympics besides Ryan Kesler. On Monday, defenceman Yannick Weber was named to Switzerland's roster for next month’s Sochi Winter Games. This season, the blueliner has a goal and two assists in 21 games with the Canucks.