Key points at stake as Ducks host Canucks
The Pacific Division remains compacted at the top heading into Thanksgiving weekend, a time when NHL teams in playoff position traditionally hold those spots until the end of the regular season.
The Vancouver Canucks were at the top of those standings two weeks ago, but currently sit in third after losing their past six games heading into their matchup Wednesday night at the Anaheim Ducks.
"We've got to find a way to get some energy and get some life," Vancouver center Sam Gagner told The Province after a 6-3 loss to the visiting Winnipeg Jets on Monday night, the third time in the past four games the Canucks have allowed at least five goals.
The Ducks (8-9-5) are fourth in the Pacific Division, one point behind Vancouver (10-11-2).
Anaheim has managed to stay close to the front pack by earning at least a point in six of the past nine games (3-3-3). The Ducks have pushed their past two opponents to overtime, but lost both games during the five-minute period.
Anaheim was stung by injuries at forward during the early part of the season, but now it's the defense that's having to plug holes.
Cam Fowler was struck in the face by the puck Nov. 12 against the visiting Nashville Predators and underwent surgery on Friday to repair multiple facial fractures. Hampus Lindholm missed the overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday with an upper-body injury.
Anaheim was already starting rookie defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Jacob Larsson, but Andy Welinski and Josh Mahura were recalled from the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League last week to replace Fowler and Lindholm, putting four rookie defensemen in the lineup against Colorado.
"We have some key players on our team out, but we have all the confidence in the world with guys coming up and down from San Diego," said Anaheim defenseman Brandon Montour, who has only one full season of experience in the NHL.
The Canucks will be without their top goal scorer from last season.
Brock Boeser has missed the past eight games with a groin injury and the right wing did not accompany Vancouver on the three-game road trip that begins in Anaheim.
Alexander Edler, the top-scoring defenseman for the Canucks last season, is reportedly on the trip after missing the past 13 games with a knee injury, and backup goalie Anders Nilsson is also in Anaheim after sitting out since Oct. 25 with a broken finger.
"You face adversity and you take it head on," Vancouver coach Travis Green told The Province. "There's no whining or crying about injuries. It's a good opportunity for young guys. It's a challenge and they have to accept it."
Anaheim goaltender John Gibson missed the Colorado game because of the flu, but appears well after the Ducks sent backup Kevin Boyle back down to San Diego on Tuesday.
Gibson has played well in his career against the Canucks, owning a 6-2-1 record, .938 save percentage and 1.56 goals-against average -- his lowest against any NHL team he has faced more than twice.
Updated November 20, 2018