Canucks face stiffer test against Predators
Vancouver Canucks player Ryan Kesler chases the puck on Dec. 3, the last time the team faced the Nashville Predators. The Canucks won 3-1. (REUTERS)
The Vancouver Canucks may have picked up two straight wins — the first time they've done so in 2014 — but it's not something to get too excited too fast about just yet. They were, after all, victories over the two worst teams in the Western Conference.
True, four points is four points, but a somewhat tougher test in the Nashville Predators comes into town for a game Thursday, looking for their fourth victory in the last five games. They have also scored four goals in each of their last four games, led by centre David Legwand, who has a team-high 35 points.
Also, seven of the team's last 15 goals have come from three defencemen in Shea Weber, Roman Josi, and Ryan Ellis.
Depsite their recent success — their latest a 4-1 victory over Calgary — the Preds haven't exactly been putting together that strong of a season while having lost four straight against Vancouver.
The Central Division squad sits 11th in the West and 10 points back of the Canucks, who are now three points behind the Los Angeles Kings for third in the Pacific Division.
So both teams find themselves chasing, with the Winter Olympics break nearing.
For Vancouver, they have not scored more than two goals in a game, not including shootouts, since they lost 5-4 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 7. The team is ranked 20th overall in offence, and will need more players to step up with several key injuries in the lineup.
Centre Brad Richardson missed practice Wednesday for a maintenance day. Mike Santorelli and Henrik Sedin are both still sidelined while Jordan Schroeder will play two games with the AHL's Utica Comets this weekend for a conditioning stint before returning to the big club.
All that said, Vancouver remains thin down the middle.
Then again, centre Kellan Lain picked up some of the slack with his first NHL goal Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
"It's a little overwhelming maybe … but to get that first goal is a very special moment," Lain said. "It all seems surreal, like a dream come true."