Already with a 10-1-1 record this month, it’s shaping out to be a December to remember for the Vancouver Canucks. They have a chance to add to that as they meet the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at Rogers Arena, where the Canucks have won all 6 home games this month. This is the Flyers’ first visit to Vancouver in three years.
Tonight will be the second and final regular season meeting for the Canucks and Flyers. In their first game back on October 15th at the Wells Fargo Center, the Canucks rallied back from a 2-1 third period deficit to win by a 3-2 score. Chris Higgins tied the game early in the third period, and Ryan Kesler scored the game-winning goal with only 2:25 left in the game.
However, that Flyers team in October was on the verge of the worst losing streak in franchise history. They started the season winning just 3 of their first 12 games (3-9-0), but since then, they’ve gone 15-6-4, including a 5-1-1 record in their last 7 games. The Flyers are coming off a couple of consecutive wins: a come-from-behind, 4-3 shootout win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, and a 4-1 win versus the Minnesota Wild before the Christmas break.
Similarly, the Canucks are coming off a big win in Calgary last night in their first game after the Christmas break. With Roberto Luongo still nursing a sore groin, Eddie Lack made 18 saves and posted his 2nd shutout of the season to give the Canucks the 2-0 win.
This is the Canucks’ 5th set of back-to-backs in December alone. Perhaps surprisingly, they’ve won the back half of the first 4 sets so far. (They were 2-2 in the back half of back-to-backs earlier in the season.) Coach John Tortorella had been rotating Luongo and Lack during back-to-backs, but with Luongo’s injury and after Lack’s relatively easy night last night, I’d expect the Canucks to go back to him than go to back-up rookie, Joacim Eriksson.
Including his pinch-hit performances against the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets, Lack has stopped 124 of 129 shots he’s faced in December – a 0.961 save percentage. He’s won 5 straight games, including 2 this month at Rogers Arena in front of a friendly Vancity crowd.
With his game-winning goal last night, Jannik Hansen now has 3 goals in his last 6 games.
Coinciding with the Flyers’ slow start, Claude Giroux only had 6 assists in his first 13 games this season. He’s busted out since though with 29 points in his last 25 games, including 15 points (5 goals and 10 assists) in an active 8-game point streak.
Wayne Simmonds has also been quietly putting together another good season. He has 9 points (7 goals and 2 assists) in an active 5-game point streak, and has potted 2 goals in each of his last 3 games.
The Flyers scored 3 PP goals against the Oilers on Saturday so expect Torts to really drill into the Canucks the importance of staying out of the box.
The Canucks keep winning, but last night, they lost yet another player to injury last night. Following a Brian McGrattan hit, Andrew Alberts left with a suspected concussion and did not return. He joins Roberto Luongo, Alex Edler, Ryan Stanton, Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder on the sidelines.
The Flyers are without Erik Gustafsson, who is on injured reserve with a knee injury.