Following a pair of weekend losses the Vancouver Canucks continue their seven-game road trip tonight against the struggling Islanders.
While the Canucks carry a two-game skid into tonight’s action the Islanders have lost five of their last six contests and will need a full sixty-minute effort to close out tonight’s game at home.
The Islanders have played in five-straight one-goal games heading into tonight’s action.
Higgins Heads Home
Smithtown, New York native Chris Higgins is expected to play in front of a gang of familiar fans tonight at Nassau Coliseum as the forward visits home for an early-season showcase.
Higgins has found his game on Vancouver’s recent road trip, and will be looked upon for scoring once again during tonight’s contest. While Higgins seriously struggled during Sunday’s loss to the Blue Jackets I expect the forward to perform well tonight in his hometown.
Michael Grabner will miss tonight’s game against his old club after being suspended for a check to the head of the Hurricanes’ Nathan Gerbe. Grabner clearly cuts across and clips Gerbe’s head on the play, leaving the NHL no choice but to hit him with a sizable suspension.
While the result was only a two game penalty due to a lack of history, Grabner simply can’t make that play in this new era of NHL supplemental discipline.
As Alex Edler experienced earlier this season the NHL has shown zero tolerance for any contact to the head, and NHL players are slowly learning their lessons. Brock Nelson is expected to fill in for Grabner on the Isles’ top line.
No Lub On Blue Line
Speaking of hits to the head Lubomir Visnovsky will also miss tonight’s game due to a concussion suffered during that same game between the Islanders and Hurricanes on Saturday.
Visnovsky has one goal and two assists through seven games with the Islanders this season and will be sorely missed on their top power play unit.
Rookie Matt Donovan is expected to fill in for Visnovsky tonight.
Power Play Problems
While Vancouver’s new aggressive penalty kill style has been a major success under new head coach John Tortorella, the Canucks’ power play continues to struggle in the early goings of the season.
The Canucks currently sit 27th in the league converting at only 11.1% and will need to make the most of their chances moving forward if that number is to rise.
While converting on their chances is the premier issue, the Canucks have also struggled to generate power play opportunities so far this season, ranking only 25th in the league with only 27 PP chances so far this season.
Welsh Warming Up
Jeremy Welsh played only 4:17 during his season debut with the Canucks on Sunday but look for the young forward to be given more ice time as he gets comfortable with fellow fourth liners Tom Sestito and Dale Weise.
Welsh is the latest young call-up to fill in on the fourth after Jordan Schroeder suffered another setback on Saturday.
Schroeder has been sent back to Vancouver for re-evaluation, giving Welsh a shot to show his stuff with the big club for at least a couple more games.