Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

In the Crease - Week 15

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Good Luck Canuck
Quietly, slowly, the Vancouver Canucks have crept up the standings in the Pacific Division, and the Western Conference, and they're now within four points of the top spot in the Pacific behind the Vegas Golden Knights. A major part of their success has been the offense, as they rank ninth in the NHL with 3.3 goals per game. They're also fourth in the NHL on the power play, hitting at 26.0 percent on the man advantage while ranking second at the faceoff circle. They're also a respectable 13th in goals against (3.0), while ranking 18th on the penalty kill at 80.7 percent. Through 42 games, sophomore Elias Pettersson has showed no signs of slowing down with 44 points.

The Canucks enter the new week with seven straight victories, and they're 6-2 in the past eight against teams with a winning overall record. They head east for a road trip, and they're 5-2 in the past seven against the Eastern Conference, while going 10-2 in the past 12 against the Atlantic Division. They need to show they can win as a road underdog, however. That's something they haven't had a lot of luck over the years. Vancouver is just 28-58 in the past 86 games as a road 'dog, which is where they are Tuesday in Tampa.

 Looking Ahead

Tuesday, Jan. 7

Vancouver at Tampa Bay: The Canucks have posted a 6-0 record across the past six outings after a win. The Lightning have been red-hot themselves lately, especially at home. They're 43-19 in the past 62 games at home, and they're also 6-0 in the past six after a win, rattling off seven victories in a row. The thing to watch with the Lightning is whether or not they are fresh. It hasn't been a problem in the past, as Tampa is 39-13 in the past 52 in the fourth game of a 4-in-6 (four games in six days) situation. They're also 37-15 in the past 52 in the third of a 3-in-4 situation, so this will be an interesting battle. The road team has won six of the past eight in this series, with the over going 5-1-1 in the past seven meetings.

Pittsburgh at Vegas: The Penguins and Golden Knights will square off in Sin City, and it's always interesting when Marc-Andre Fleury gets a crack at his former team. The man who essentially replaced him, Matt Murray, is expected to be on the opposite end of the ice. The last time 'Flower' faced off against his former employer, he turned aside all 29 shots he faced to pick up a 3-0 win in the Steel City back on Oct. 19. The Pens have posted five wins in the past six road games, while cashing in five in a row against winning teams. There's something about Tuesday that disagrees with the Pens, however, as they're 2-8 in the past 10 on the day. VGK has won four in a row, and they're 7-0 in their past seven Tuesday games. They have won four in a row at T-Mobile Arena, too. In this series, the home team is 4-1 in the past five meetings with the favorite hitting in each of the past five.

Wednesday, Jan. 8

Dallas at Los Angeles: The Stars have dominated in this series lately, hitting in four of the past five meetings in this series. They're also 5-0 in the past five times they've pulled into Staples Center, while the road team is 6-1 in the past seven. The underdog is also 11-4 in the previous 15 meetings. Dallas has come alive under interim coach Rick Bowness, and they're 4-0 in the past four overall. They're also an impressive 7-3 in the past 10 against the Pacific Division, and 13-6 in the past 19 games as a favorite. For the Kings, they're 2-6 in the past eight games overall, and just 3-9 in the past 12 games against Western Conference clubs. They're also a dismal 19-44 in the previous 63 against winning teams.

Thursday, Jan. 9

Nashville at Chicago: The Nashville Predators have tumbled down the Central Division standings and it cost Peter Laviolette his job, as well as assistant head coach Kevin McCarthy. There is no official word as of time of publishing who will take over the reins, but Dale Hunter and Mike Babcock are a couple of names which have emerged. The Predators job is a good one, and there is plenty of talent on the roster. They will face the Blackhawks in a big game, as both teams are tied with each other just a few points out of a playoff spot entering the new week. These teams have met twice already this season, with Nashville winning 3-0 behind Pekka Rinne back on Oct. 29 in the Music City, and the Blackhawks embarrassing the Preds 7-2, also in Nashville, behind Robin Lehner on Nov. 16. This will be the first meeting in Chitown this season.

Columbus at San Jose: The Blue Jackets and Sharks will square off at SAP Center in a rematch between teams which just faced off Jan. 4 in C-Bus. The Sharks picked up a 3-2 win behind Aaron Dell against Elvis Merzlikins, who has started the past five games entering play due to an injury to Joonas Korpisalo, who is out four to six weeks due to surgery to repair a torn meniscus. The Jackets haven't skipped a beat with Elvis in the building, winning three of the past four, while they have lost in regulation only once in the past 14 outings. They have also picked up points in at least eight straight road outings.

Friday, Jan. 10

Arizona at Carolina: The Arizona Coyotes have hovered at or near the top of the Pacific Division all season, entering play two points back of the Golden Knights. The Coyotes have actually been much better on the road than at home, going 11-10-1 in 22 games at home and 13-6-3 in 22 games on the road. For the Hurricanes, they fell 4-3 at home to the Washington Capitals last Friday, before suffering a 3-1 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon. It was actually the first time Petr Mrazek had lost back-to-back home games since joining the Hurricanes two seasons ago. The Hurricanes have picked up 50 points overall heading into the new week, and they have been one of the most consistent teams in terms of avoiding losing streaks.

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