Canucks-Flyers Preview

The Vancouver Canucks have had the misfortune of a lethargic stretch on offense overlapping the absence of their starting goaltender.

Ryan Miller’s illness seems to have subsided before the scoring issues, and he expects to start Thursday night in Philadelphia as the Canucks try to avoid a four-game skid.

Miller missed two games with the ailment, though it’s unlikely that more would have come from having him in goal. After beginning a five-game trip with Tuesday’s 5-1 loss in Nashville, Vancouver (23-15-3) has scored twice over three straight regulation losses.

Coach Willie Desjardins doesn’t think that tells the whole story.

"The last two games, we played good, we just lost," he said. "It’s a tough trip and it’s going to be a battle. Every game is going to be tough. They’re not going to be any easier."

That might not be true with Philadelphia (17-20-7) and Carolina up next, but the Canucks have been more on a level with those teams while going 5-8-2 since Dec. 6. In their last 13 contests, they’ve been held to a goal or less seven times.

Miller has risen to the occasion more often than not with a 1.86 goals-against average during a 4-2-1 stretch and said he can’t recall missing any previous time due to illness.

"I just try and push through it usually," he said. "This one I just thought – given the circumstances – I just thought I didn’t have the energy to give the boys."

Recent trips to Philadelphia haven’t followed his recent form with a 0-4-0 record and 3.35 GAA in five games, but this will be his first stop there with the Canucks.

The Flyers can somewhat relate to Vancouver’s struggles with a one-goal effort and a shutout loss over their last three, though the other game was a 7-3 win over Tampa Bay on Monday. Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Washington dropped Philadelphia to 3-6-1 since Dec. 27.

"We played well, but we don’t deserve a point," coach Craig Berube said. "We missed some opportunities offensively."

They’ve likely been overly dependent on power-play production in those 10 games. Philadelphia has just 12 even-strength goals in that span while going 9 of 37 (24.3 percent) with the advantage. What’s worse is the Flyers haven’t even had a special-teams edge in those games, going just 22 of 32 (68.7 percent) on the penalty kill.

The good news for Philadelphia is it plays six of its next eight at home after the loss to the Capitals marked its sixth straight on the road. The Flyers are 11-6-3 at home with 3.05 goals per game and a league-leading 30.1 percent clip on the power play.

With Steve Mason sidelined for two weeks with a lower-body injury, Rob Zepp was deployed for his third NHL start and lost for the first time despite a 25-save effort in possibly his best performance yet.

Philadelphia could turn to Ray Emery, who has lost his last three appearances with a 4.15 GAA.

Defensively, the team has been terrible in the second game of back-to-back sets, allowing an average of 4.38 goals while going 2-5-1.

These clubs split two games last season with the home team winning each.

Henrik Sedin has 17 points on a nine-game streak against Philadelphia, while Daniel Sedin has 13 points in those contests.

Claude Giroux has seven points in his last four against the Canucks and Wayne Simmonds has one point over 14 career meetings.