NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, February 6th (All times Eastern)
Vancouver Canucks (27-22-9) at Montreal Canadiens (30-21-6), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Head coach John Tortorella hopes to finally lead the sliding Vancouver Canucks to a win on Thursday when they visit the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
Tortorella recently returned from a 15-day suspension for his actions in a game against Calgary on Jan. 18 and has been behind the bench for the last two of Vancouver's string of five consecutive regulation losses.
The Canucks went 2-4-0 while Tortorella was serving a suspension for trying to start an altercation with Calgary head coach Bob Hartley in between periods. Since returning, the fiery head coach has seen his club lose 2-0 in Detroit on Monday and 3-1 the following night in Boston, but he does believe the Canucks are making small steps in the right direction.
"I'm not interested in moral victories and all that," said Tortorella after Tuesday's loss against the Bruins. "We lose another game, but as a coach I have to try and hang my hat on that I see some improvement on our club within the structure of a lot of areas of our game."
Vancouver was only able to get one of its 28 shots past Tuukka Rask on Tuesday and the club's lone goal was scored by Raphael Diaz, who made his debut with the Canucks after coming over in a trade with Montreal on Monday. Diaz will face his former team for the first time tonight and forward Dale Weise, who was shipped to the Canadiens in exchange, will get the same opportunity against the Canucks.
Roberto Luongo made 29 saves to drop his third straight decision between the pipes.
"Good teams find a way to collect points and we're not doing that right now," Luongo lamented.
Despite their recent struggles, the Canucks are still hanging onto the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, they are only a point in front of Phoenix and Dallas and two ahead of the Winnipeg Jets.
Vancouver will play its final two games before the NHL breaks for the Olympics on the road. The Canucks are 0-3 on a five-game trek that is set to end Saturday in Toronto and the club is 13-13-4 as the guest this season.
The Canadiens are 3-1-1 over their last five games and were able to halt a two-game slide their last time out, beating the visiting Calgary Flames by a 2-0 score on Tuesday.
Carey Price was the star for Montreal in the win over the Flames, as he posted 27 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. Calgary had won five straight games before running into Price.
"We played pretty well in our own end," Price said. "We limited their scoring chances and that's the biggest reason why we won tonight."
Rene Bourque got Montreal on the board with 3:45 left in the second period, while David Desharnais added an empty netter in the final minute.
Weise failed to reach the scoresheet in his first game with the Habs, but he did register three shots on net and three hits in 12 minutes, 45 seconds of ice time.
Montreal, which will play its last game before the Olympic break Saturday at Carolina, enters today's action tied with Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens currently hold the tiebreaker due to having played one less games than the Maple Leafs, who are occupying the seventh of eighth playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference.
The Canadiens posted a 4-1 win at Vancouver on Oct. 12, giving Montreal wins in two straight and five of the past six meetings in this series. The Canucks had lost three straight in Montreal before snapping that slide with a shootout win on Dec. 8, 2011.
02/06 11:07:42 ET