Kesler could be in ornery mood when he faces his former club
Without a goal in their last two outings — and the well-travelled Jussi Jokinen providing the only scoring from a forward in four straight losses — you have to wonder when the Canucks will score again and if any forward will find the net tonight in Anaheim. The best bet might be Daniel Sedin. He has 21 goals, had three shots, four attempts and was robbed of a sure goal Monday in a 3-0 loss at Los Angeles. The Canucks had 35 shots. They had three power plays.
THE BIG MATCHUP
Horvat versus Kesler
An agitated Ryan Kesler is a good Kesler. The shutdown centre is grinding it out through hip pain from another off-season procedure and that alone will make him ornery. Toss in facing his former club, not generating a shot Monday in a 4-2 loss to St. Louis to lose ground in pursuit of a playoff position and he might even fight again. He dropped the gloves March 8 in a long-standing feud with Ryan Johansen. He even went after Jonathan Toews on March 4. Not sure he has an axe to grind with Bo Horvat, but a prime-time matchup could bring out the best in the future captain. He earned his stripes by being good defensively, good in the circle and good in transition. And without a goal in five games, Kesler could be the competitive tonic to get Horvat going offensively.
FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Captain must lead by example
Henrik Sedin was as frank as a slap in the face Monday. He called out the club’s battle level and owned it from his own competitive perspective. He was asked to lead. He logged 17:47 against the Kings and had nothing to show for it offensively. “Travis (Green) gave our line the chance to get something going and maybe win the game, but we didn’t step up,” said the captain. “It’s going to fall on the guys who need to produce. I don’t care who gets the goals. You want to see the battle level that needs to be there every night. I believe we could have had more guys doing that.”
Little mistakes are big trouble At least they’re not boring. The injury-riddled club is still trying to push the pace with few bullets in the chamber. They still activate the defence, they want outmanned situations moving up ice and can live with a high-risk, high-reward theory. However, when Ben Hutton is caught in a pinch and Derrick Pouliot is retreating in vain in a failed attempt to stop a Tyler Toffoli breakaway goal in a loss to Los Angeles, it speaks to a minuscule margin of error for the club.
Tanev riding to the rescue? The Canucks were off Tuesday and could welcome Chris Tanev back tonight. He has missed 15 games with a micro-fracture to his leg and wants back in the fight. That’s good. His smart reads, positioning and ability to quickly move pucks up ice are vital if the Canucks expect to upset the Ducks. “He’s possible,” said Green. “He wants to play and I want him to play. I want him to end this season playing some good hockey down the stretch and be ready to come back. We miss him drastically.”
Daniel sees a silver lining Daniel Sedin’s critiques usually revolve around mistakes. And if you want a read on what the Sedins might be thinking about their playing futures, listen to the winger, who had a run of six goals in five games end March 5. “A few games, it’s been a mistake here or there,” he said. “That’s easy to correct. It’s tougher when you have four or five things going wrong.”
Gagner sees the frustration Sam Gagner is supposed to be contributor, not a leader. He had a glorious chance Monday that sailed high and wide of an open net and has gone 21 games without a goal. He had 18 goals last season in Columbus, but only seven in 2017-18.