GAME DAY: Vancouver
Blue Jackets' west coast swing continues with a pivotal game against the Canucks in B.C.
The last time the Blue Jackets and Canucks met up, it was at Nationwide Arena (their second meeting in Columbus in a week's time) and the visitors were chasing down the Minnesota Wild after letting their Northwest Division lead get away.
It's a slightly different storyline this time around with the Blue Jackets taking a west coast trip out to British Columbia. Columbus, which had its 12-game points streak and three-game win streak ended Saturday night in Nashville, is facing a Canucks club that's gaining confidence like a steam engine gathers, well, steam. They've won four in a row and have a two-point lead in the division over the Minnesota Wild, which owns a five-game winning streak in its own right.
What does that say about Tuesday night's tilt at Rogers Arena? Both teams are in the all-out, desperation mode for points as the NHL regular season starts to wind down. Vancouver and Columbus have both played 32 games entering their showdown on Tuesday night and the vast majority of teams in the Western Conference playoff hunt have played fewer, which brings everyone's favorite "games in hand" argument into the fold.
The Canucks are facing a bevy of must-win games coming up, considering the fact that they've played two more games than the Wild and have only a one-win advantage in the standings (two points). They've had to do so despite being a little thing in the lineup due to injury, and are currently playing without two of their most important depth players in Ryan Kesler and David Booth, and neither player is expected back before the end of the season. In their absence, the Canucks have gotten a boost from Mason Raymond, who has scored in back-to-back games including the only goal in Vancouver's 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings last weekend.
One thing the Canucks have not had to mess with during their four-game streak is goaltending. After spending the early part of the season going back and forth between Roberto Luongo (who has played very well) and Cory Schneider, coach Alain Vigneault has exclusively used Schneider during this stretch and the young goaltender has responded well.
Schneider has won all four starts and most recently made 26 saves in the Canucks' 3-2 win in Denver on Sunday, which concluded a crucial three-game road trip. It's expected that he will get the start in goal against the Blue Jackets, while Sergei Bobrovsky may return to the nets for Columbus.
- In his first appearance since Mar. 5 vs. Edmonton, Steve Mason played well in relief of Bobrovsky on Saturday night in Nashville. He stopped 12-of-12 shots he faced and gave the Blue Jackets a chance to get back into the game, which is all you can ask of your goaltender in a tough situation.
- Bobrovsky had a 1.34 GAA during an 8-0-3 stretch before he was pulled for giving up four goals on 11 shots against the Predators on Saturday. He has started both previous meetings against the Canucks this season, stopped 71 of 73 pucks while going 1-0-1 in those games.
- Shea Weber's power play goal in the first period on Saturday ended a spectacular run for the Blue Jackets' penalty kill. Prior to that goal, the Columbus PK unit had not allowed a 5-on-4 goal against in 15 games, the last coming in a loss to Anaheim on Feb. 18 at Honda Center.
- The Blue Jackets are 0-3-2 in their last five trips to Rogers Arena.
2013 STATS: 2-5-7, 32 GP
In his first season of full-time NHL duty, the 23-year-old defenseman has proven to be a legitimate NHL defenseman. That's good news for the Canucks, who have seen defensemen go down with injuries and have played two games without Alex Edler, who was recently suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith. A Toronto native, Tanev was signed as an undrafted free agent out of RIT in 2010 and was a top-four defender in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves and Manitoba Moose.
COLUMBUS: James Wisniewski (foot), on IR; Derek Dorsett (clavicle), on IR; Brandon Dubinsky (undisclosed), day-to-day
VANCOUVER: Ryan Kesler, David Booth