[Every week Caylie King reviews the Canucks week that was and previews the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]
The Canucks end a 6-game road trip in Phoenix tonight and then head back home for a 7-game home-stand. This isn’t the same team we saw a few days ago in Dallas. With the addition of Zack Kassian, the Canucks addressed their need for a big, physical bottom six forward. Unfortunately, the Cody Hodgson era is over here in Vancouver, but veteran center and Stanley Cup winner Sami Pahlsson will slot into the lineup and help in a defensive shutdown role.
Hopefully Canucks fans can put aside their emotional attachment to Cody and give Kassian and Pahlsson the chance to blossom here in Vancouver. Remember, Kassian is not here to replace Cody. He is here to address the need for size, grit and toughness. He has the potential to fit nicely into this lineup and prove that he belongs in this league.
63 GP, 40-16-7, 87 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 vs. Phoenix Coyotes (6:00 PM start, away)
The Coyotes have been one of the hottest teams in the league recently; they have had a remarkable February so far, going 10-0-1 in their 11 games. They currently lead the Pacific Division and sit in 3rd place in the Western Conference.
This will be the 3rd meeting between the two teams. The Canucks have won both previous games by a combined score of 6-1. In the season series, Ryan Kesler leads all skaters with 3 points (1G-2A) and a plus-3 rating; Keith Yandle has been the only Coyote to score a goal against the Canucks so far this season.
Ray Whitney, who may be small in stature but plays big and with so much heart and determination, leads the Coyotes in assists (39) and points (57). He also has the team’s best plus/minus rating (+24). Whitney has recorded at least a point in 15 of his last 17 games; he has 21 points (4G-17A) in that span.
Thursday, March 1, 2012 vs. St. Louis Blues (7:00 PM start, home)
At the start of the season, few thought that the St. Louis Blues would be leading a tough Central Division and be sitting in 2nd place in the Western Conference with 19 games to go. The Blues are currently riding a 3-game win streak and have won 10 of their last 14 games.
This will be the last game of the regular season between these two clubs; the Blues have won 2 games and the Canucks have won 1.
Goaltender Brian Elliot backstopped the Blues in both of their wins. T.J. Oshie leads the skaters with 4 points (2G-2A) and a plus-4 rating.
Patrik Berglund has been an assist machine recently recording with 7 assists in his last 7 games. He also sits 4th in team scoring with 30 points (13G-17A).
For the Canucks, Alex Burrows has 3 goals and a plus-3 rating against St. Louis. Also, Daniel Sedin recorded the overtime winner back in January.
Saturday, March 3, 2012 vs. Buffalo Sabres (7:00 PM start, home)
At the start of the season, Canucks fans had this came circled for the return of Christian Ehrhoff. Little did we know it would also mark the return of Cody Hodgson. Hodgson was traded to Buffalo for Zach Kassian on trade deadline day. Canucks Nation wishes Cody well in Buffalo and hopes that he gets the opportunity to shine in a top-6 role. Buffalo is currently 6 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and hope that Hodgson’s addition will help as they make one, final push for the postseason.
This is the first and only meeting between the two clubs. The Sabres have had some success against Northwest Division opponents this season, going 2-0-0 so far).
Captain Jason Pominville has been hot with 12 points (6G-6A) in his last 11 games. He also leads the Sabres in goals (23), assists (36) and points (59) this season.
In only 3 games played in the month of February, Cory Schneider continues to show why he is one of the best – if not the best – backups in the league today. He’s won 12 of his last 14 starts.
He was also the main reason the Canucks left New Jersey with 2 points last Friday. After an emotional, streak-breaking win against the Detroit Red Wings last week, the Canucks came out flat and didn’t have much left in the tank against the Devils. All Schneids did was stand on his head and stop 30 of 31 shots he faced.
This season, Schneids has an impressive 14-5 record this season along with an equally-impressive .930 save percentage, which is good for 4th > best in the NHL. He also has a 2.19 goals against average, which is 8th best in the league.
Prior to the trade deadline, there was much speculation about whether or not Mike Gillis would deal Schneider. Thankfully, GMMG made the decision to keep him despite his RFA status next season. Schneider and Luongo were the best goalie tandem last year, winning the Jennings award, and they have continued on with their success this season. It gives the Canucks a lot of confidence knowing that Schneider has shown now too that he can step into high-pressure, hostile situations and handle big games.