Last in the division in December despite being a Stanley Cup favorite before the season, the Canucks have turned it on recently, going 17-4-2 since the Christmas break, and is now in a battle with the Los Angeles Kings for top spot in the Pacific.
This remarkable turnaround has been attributed to coach Alain Vigneault, putting him in Jack Adams Award contention for coach of the year.
The largest test for Anaheim will be contending with the lowlife brothers of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who have recently been split up by coach Vigneault in an attempt to revitalize team chemistry. It seems to have worked, with both Sedins producing points on their respective lines. This recent success reminded fans of 2011, when the twins were jointly awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy after the voting panel struggled to distinguish between the two and gave up, opting for the simpler solution instead.
The controversial acquisition of Sean Avery seems to have also sparked the team. While the trade to Vancouver surprised many and angered many Canucks fans due to Avery’s previous antics against their star players, he has yet to take a single penalty in a Canucks jersey so far and has contributed offensively by offending the opposition with verbal abuse. Fans are quickly warming to him as he becomes a quality piece on their quest to the playoffs. A shirtless mural of him already hangs outside Rogers Arena in an attempt to sell playoff tickets, to which fans have responded positively; a long waiting list is currently in place.
One potential weakness that the Ducks may be able to exploit is the inconsistency of the goaltending duo of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. 2011 Vezina winner Luongo was last season’s starter, but has been outplayed by the rookie Schneider, who is in his third season. Schneider is also coming off an injury during a recent game, leading the Canucks to recall Eddie Lack from San Diego of the AHL; Lack has since been reassigned.
Meanwhile, the Ducks have struggled since Christmas, plummeting out of playoff position and causing many to call for the firing of coach Bruce Boudreau and general manager Brian Burke. While the team is seen as being in a rebuilding phase, it has failed to contend for anything this season, including the first-overall draft pick.
"It is frustrating," admits captain Ryan Getzlaf. "Hopefully we can pull out a win tonight and get back to Anaheim with at least one win in this road trip."
"We certainly don’t want to upset the fans," Corey Perry admitted, with a bead of sweat rolling down his forehead. "California’s short on water as it is, and we know how much water the fire department needed the last time we upset the fans."
"Je ne veux pas vous parler," said new acquisition David Perron, who has no points in just over ten games since he arrived in Anaheim. "S'il vous plaît laisse maintenant ou je vais appeler la police."
The game starts at 9.52 hours Canadian metric time (7:00pm Pacific Time).