NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 18th (All times eastern)
San Jose Sharks (43-16-10) at Vancouver Canucks (43-24-3), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - While the San Jose Sharks are coming off their most lopsided defeat of the season, the Vancouver Canucks are dealing with the loss of one of their biggest weapons.
San Jose will try to halt a three-game slide this evening at GM Place against a Vancouver squad that will be without Mikael Samuelsson for the next few weeks.
The Canucks own a slight three-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the Northwest Division, a margin that might be tough to hold onto without Samuelsson. The Swedish forward has a career-high 30 tallies and 53 points over 70 games this year, but Vancouver's second-leading goal scorer left Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders with an upper-body injury that will sideline him for two-to-three weeks.
"He was playing really well, obviously he was contributing to our success, and it's something we have to deal with," head coach Alain Vigneault told the Canucks' Web site.
Samuelsson had a seven-game point streak end in the setback, while Ryan Kesler's 13-game run -- which was the longest active streak in the NHL -- was also halted. Daniel Sedin was able to expand his point streak with an assist, giving him three goals and 14 assists on the run.
Kyle Wellwood and Alexandre Burrows scored for the Canucks, who saw their seven-game home win streak end and failed to record at least one point for only the second time since the Olympic break (6-2-1). Roberto Luongo allowed four goals on 12 shots through two periods before being pulled in favor of Andrew Raycroft, who ended with seven saves.
"We came into the game not respecting the competition," Luongo said.
The Canucks, who play the fourth contest of a five-game homestand that followed an NHL-record 14-game road trip, could have used Samuelsson for this game. Their 4-2 home setback to the Sharks on Nov. 29, the first of four meetings between the teams this year, was the Canucks' eighth loss in their last nine versus the Sharks.
San Jose has also come out on top in six of its last eight trips to Vancouver, but the club will be aiming to rebound from an 8-2 pounding at the hands of Dallas on Tuesday. It marked the Sharks' largest margin of defeat this year and was their worst outing since a 7-2 loss versus Chicago on Nov. 25.
Dan Boyle and Devin Setoguchi lit the lamp for the Sharks, who are 3-4-1 over their last eight games and have put together their worst slide since an 0-2-3 skid from Dec. 3-12. Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 13-of-17 shots before being pulled in the second period for Thomas Greiss, who made 10 saves in relief.
"They capitalized on our turnovers and sloppy play in our zone," said Sharks defenseman Rob Blake. "We turned the puck over way too much."
San Jose now leads Chicago by only two points for the top seed in the Western Conference and has fallen seven points back of Washington in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.
The Sharks' current slide also includes a setback on the first two contests of a six-game road trip, and San Jose has lost three straight and four of its last five on the road.
03/18 16:47:37 ET