After getting a long cross-country trip off to an undesired start, the Vancouver Canucks have little time to rest before taking on one of the Eastern Conference’s hottest teams.
While the New Jersey Devils look to maintain their strong recent play, the Canucks attempt to shake off a tough loss when the teams face off Sunday night.
New Jersey (7-5-1) lost its first four games under new coach John Hynes but has raised its play since, winning seven of nine and dealing defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago a 4-2 defeat in Friday’s opener of a three-game homestand. Lee Stempniak, Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac all scored first-period goals and added assists to support Cory Schneider’s 27 saves.
Zajac has sparked the surge with six goals in eight games, including four in the last four. The two-way center also has played a key role on an improved penalty-killing unit that’s 10 for 11 over the past five games after yielding eight goals in the first eight.
”I think we are coming to expect that we want to beat every team,” Schneider said. ”You can’t just feel good or get up for certain games. You have to get up for all of them and we are developing that mentality right now.”
Schneider, who’s allowed two goals or less in four straight outings, should have no problems being motivated if he plays Sunday, having been traded by the Canucks to New Jersey in June 2013. Hynes said he’s pondering using backup Keith Kinkaid, however, with Schneider having started 10 consecutive games.
Kinkaid last played on Oct. 13, stopping 17 of 18 shots in a 3-1 loss to Nashville.
Schneider has faced his former team four times since the trade, losing three despite a 2.21 goals-against average. He made 21 saves in a 4-2 victory at Prudential Center on Feb. 20, halting the Canucks’ six-game series winning streak.
Vancouver (6-4-4) comes in having lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time this season following Saturday’s 3-2 defeat in Buffalo. The Sabres’ Rasmus Ristolainen spoiled Ryan Miller’s return to First Niagara Center and denied the Canucks a point by breaking a 2-all tie with 16.8 seconds left.
Miller, the Sabres’ career leader in wins and games played by a goaltender, made just 19 saves in a game Vancouver owned a 37-22 shot advantage.
”That’s a tough one,” forward Daniel Sedin said. ”We deserved better.”
Henrik Sedin had a goal to extend his point streak to five games and Chris Higgins also scored in his second game back from a fractured foot. Daniel Sedin has two goals and four assists over his last six.
Vancouver began a season-high seven-game trip and entered 4-0-1 on the road.
Miller, who had 20 saves in a 3-2 home defeat to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, owns a 0.97 GAA over a three-game winning streak against New Jersey and has allowed one goal or less in six of his seven starts at the Prudential Center. He’s started 13 of the Canucks’ first 14 games, however, so Richard Bachman could draw the nod in the second of a back-to-back.
Bachman made 28 saves in a 4-3 win at Arizona in his lone start on Oct. 30.