Canucks vs. Coyotes Game Day Preview: Kesler Returns (and Ballard Too)

Alex Edler of the Vancouver Canucks crunches Phoenix Coyotes goaltender, Mike Smith

Photo credit: Globe and Mail

Only 3 points back of the 8th place Detroit Red Wings and with a game in hand on them, the Desert Dogs are hungry for a win – Hehe. See what I did there? – and still fighting for the last and final playoff spot in the West. The Coyotes may not be one of the most exciting teams to watch, but give them credit, they’ve found a way in recent years to stay relevant in the wild, wild, West. Heading into tonight’s game, they’ve won 3 straight games and have points in 6 straight games (4-0-2).

But enough about the Coyotes, tonight could see the return of a player that has been missing in the Canucks lineup for quite some time. He’s suffered a few injuries in his last couple of years here, but yes, Keith Ballard could return tonight. I can feel AV’s heart filling with pride and joy. (Though that he’s coming into the lineup in place of the injured Chris Tanev probably tempers that joy a bit.)

But in all seriousness, Ryan Kesler seems to be healed and ready to get a few games under his belt before the real season starts. After leading the stretches at this morning’s game-day skate, the Canucks announced he would be back tonight and playing on a line with Mason Raymond and Zack Kassian.

My gosh, do the Canucks actually have 3 scoring lines now?

Canucks Record

21-11-6, 48 points (1st in the Northwest Division, 3rd in the Western Conference)

Season Series

The Canucks and the Coyotes split their first 2 games against each other this season. The Coyotes won the first meeting in February by a 4-2 score. The Canucks won the most recent meeting on March 21 by a 2-1 score.

Who’s Hot

For all the angst in Vancouver over the last few weeks, they’re actually 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. Despite some low-scoring – and no-scoring – efforts in some of those games, they’ve held in – thanks in large part to the play of Cory Schneider – and taken points anyway.

The first line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows had great games against the two Alberta teams and combined for 11 points. Hank had 5 points (2G-3A), Dank had 4 points (0G-4A) and Burr had 2 points (1G-1A).

Mikkel Boedker is currently on a 3-game point streak (1G-3A) and has recorded at least a point in 4 of his last 5 games. Despite the shortened schedule, he’s only 4 points away from matching his career-high in points (28 points in 2008/2009, his first season in the league). He’s currently tied for the team lead with 24 points (7G-17A).

Who’s Not

Alex Edler scored against the Flames on Saturday, but prior to that, he had just 1 assist in 9 games.

The Coyotes have won just 1 or their 7 road games since the beginning of March, and are a woeful 4-8-5 away from Arena this season. So of course, while they’re chasing a playoff spot, 7 of their last 10 games are on the road.

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