The Canucks take on their old friends in Florida tonight, except the Panthers will be without the oldest and friendliest of them all, Roberto Luongo.
Someone named Harri Sateri will be in the crease in Luongo’s stead as the veteran (along with usual backup James Reimer) is injured. The only problem is that Sateri has actually been pretty solid lately, as the long-time AHLer won the NHL’s second star of the week, winning all three games he played in the process and only allowing five goals.
Granted, two of those games were against teams that haven’t been able to put the puck in the net in Buffalo and Detroit, but holding the high-scoring New York Islanders to one goal on 33 shots is a definite achievement.
Can Vancouver break Sateri? It’s possible. The Canucks were able to score against both Colorado and Chicago last week, and the team will look to build on that.
That McCann-Do attitude
The Canucks and embattled GM Jim Benning traded then-19-year-old Jared McCann to Florida almost two years ago. The trade hasn’t aged very well. Erik Gudbranson, the main piece who came back to Vancouver in the deal isn’t logging top-four minutes on the blueline, while McCann is having a solid season for the Cats.
With decent numbers and 13 points in 37 games, McCann has served the Panthers well in a checking line role. Watch for him to be extra amped up tonight.
Bringing Guddy back
Speaking of which, Gudbranson is likely to be traded before the deadline (unless the Canucks lose their minds and attempt to re-sign him at anywhere close to his “market value”), and it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Panthers tried to trade defenceman Jason Demers for him in the most recent offseason.
Demers reportedly blocked the deal with his no-trade clause, but could there be an appetite to bring Gudbranson back to Florida? The Panthers aren’t making the playoffs, but maybe the Canucks could convince Florida they’ve got some suitors for the defenceman and it’s worth trading for him in order to lock him up before other teams can offer him contracts on July 1.
The Flying Vs
Thomas Vanek played the end of last season in Florida after coming over from Detroit at the trade deadline. He didn’t have the best time there, unable to replicate his performance with the Red Wings, as the Panthers didn’t make the playoffs.
One can’t help but draw similarities with Radim Vrbata this year. The former Canuck was brought in to help the Panthers offensively after a 55-point season with Arizona last year. That hasn’t happened, as Vrbata has 13 points in 35 games in a season that will almost certainly end playoffs-less for Florida.
Can either of the vets garner interest from potential buyers before the trade deadline?
Jacob Markstrom will probably start against his old team, and one has to think he’d love to make them regret trading him. Florida doesn’t really have any can’t-miss prospects coming up the pipe and Markstrom was once thought to be the team’s goalie of the future.
It looks like Sam Gagner may be ready to come back from an injury sustained against Chicago, which means that Nic Dowd will likely get back into the lineup.
Then there’s the question on defence. The Canucks are carrying eight d-men, and while Alex Biega is a virtual lock to take a seat in the press box, one of the left-handed rearguards in Derrick Pouliot and Ben Hutton will join him. After Pouliot was stapled to the bench in the waning moments of the Tampa Bay game, bet on Hutton getting another chance.
This will likely be a hard fought affair, with both teams believing they can win the game. The Canucks have been playing well as of late, and it says here that continues, as Vancouver is able to break Florida’s three-game winning streak.
Follow @ncaddell on Twitter