Season Series: This is the second of four season meetings between last season's Western Conference finalists and current division leaders. When the two first met a month ago, Vancouver held on for a 3-2 win in San Jose behind 43 saves Cory Schneider. These two will reconnect in Vancouver in five days on Jan. 2, 2012.
Big Story: San Jose enters Wednesday's contest looking to close out the calendar year with a win over its playoff nemesis Vancouver. The Canucks, who snuck away with a victory in the first game this season, will look to repeat the feat in HP Pavilion, a venue in which they have won four of five.
Canucks: After a slip at home against Calgary on Dec. 23 – a 3-1 loss that snapped a three-game winning streak – Vancouver bounced back Monday with a 5-3 defeat of Edmonton. In it, the Canucks received scoring from an unexpected source: Andrew Ebbett. In only his eighth game back after a fractured foot sidelined him for most of the season, Ebbett scored two first-period goals in the win, matching his goal output from all of last season with Phoenix.
The usual suspects – Daniel Sedin, Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler – rounded out the scoring for the Canucks, a team rounding once again into playoff form.
"It's a lot more enjoyable for everybody when you go out there and put your work boots on," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "That's what our guys did tonight."
Sharks: After winning four straight to shoot to the top of the Pacific Division, San Jose suffered something of a Christmas hangover on Monday, falling 3-2 at HP Pavilion to Anaheim. The win was the Ducks' first away victory in 13 games, a period of 73 days. San Jose mounted a comeback in the third, outshooting the Ducks 18-8 in the period and controlling play, but failed to find the net.
"We started to establish our game in the third period," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We turned it over and that affected us. We didn't respond. We rebounded in the third but it was too little, too late."
Although he provided an incisive assist on San Jose’s first goal, captain Joe Thornton coughed up a puck to Bobby Ryan for a breakaway goal.
"Those are things that are going to cost you games," Thornton said of the turnover, one of five he had on the night. "I just mishandled it. I've got to make a better decision."
Who's Hot: Roberto Luongo has officially recovered his playoff form. The Canucks No. 1 is 8-1-1 over his last 10 games, recording his only two shutouts of the season over that stretch. … Joe Pavelski, whose Thornton-assisted goal Monday put him in a tie for the team lead with 15, has six points in as many games.
Injury Report: San Jose goalie Antero Niittymaki should be available for Wednesday's game after he was recalled Dec. 23 from AHL Worcester. After assisting on a goal in the loss to Anaheim, defenseman Colin White left with a hand injury and is questionable. Martin Havlat (left hamstring surgery), Jim Vandermeer (upper body), Douglas Murray (right hand) and Alex Stalock (knee surgery) are all on injured reserve. … For Vancouver, Aaron Rome (broken thumb – 3 to 4 weeks), David Booth (sprained right knee – 4-6 weeks), Aaron Volpatti (shoulder surgery), Steve Pinizzotto (shoulder surgery) and Byron Bitz (groin surgery) are all on the IR.
Stat Pack: Schneider hasn't started since Dec. 15, but he could get the nod against San Jose. While not exactly stifling with a career 4.10 GAA against the Sharks, his 3-1-0 record, coupled with Vancouver's torrid scoring pace (3.31 goals per game), could be enough for the nod from Vigneault.
Puck Drop: "It gives you a little more confidence when you come to the rink in the morning and know you are in the lineup that night. I'm looking at this as an opportunity to prove I deserve a top-12 spot the rest of the season." – Vancouver forward Andrew Ebbett after scoring two goals against Edmonton