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Gameday Skate: Things to watch for in Canucks season opener vs. Sharks

Drop The Puck

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The day is finally here. The Vancouver Canucks open the 2013-14 season tonight against the San Jose Sharks, the same club that ended last year’s quest for the Cup. Do the Sharks have the Canucks’ number, or was last season a blip within a lockout-marred season?

Tonight we begin to find out.  

Below are five things I’ll be looking for in our first glimpse of meaningful Canucks hockey in quite some time.

A rivalry renewed

Yes, as I mentioned above the Sharks simply owned the Canucks last season, piling up a 7-0 record against Vancouver, including a four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs.

With revenge on their minds I expect the Canucks to come out flying tonight, but that doesn’t mean it will do them any good.

The Sharks are one hell of a hockey team, and now that the Canucks can call them division rivals I only expect the games between these two teams to intensify. While there may be a bit of rust for both teams to shake off in the early goings, I expect a playoff intensity to take over after a few big hits are thrown.

Centre of attention

The Sharks are plenty deep down the middle, the Canucks? Not so much. Brad Richardson was brought in during the off-season to take over third-line centre duties, but is expected to slide over to the wing for tonight’s opener, leaving Mike Santorelli to play pivot.

Can Ryan Stanton bring consistency to Vancouver's third pairing?

Can Ryan Stanton bring consistency to Vancouver’s third pairing?

Recent acquisition Zac Dalpe will begin the season as the Canucks’ fourth-line centre.

Dalpe has played a grand total of 41 games in the NHL during his young career.

Ryan Stanton

Fellow newcomer Ryan Stanton was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks this week, and immediately leapfrogged Andrew Alberts to become Vancouver’s sixth defenceman.

Keep an eye on Stanton, who will have to be solid alongside Chris Tanev if he is to keep Alberts in the press box.

Rusty Roberto

Yes, by now we all know that Roberto Luongo takes a while to get into the groove to start an NHL season, but could Vancouver’s undisputed #1 say goodbye and good riddance to bad luck to begin 2013?

The way I see it, Luongo will either stand on his head or be absolutely lit up tonight. In any case, the focus is on Luongo once again tonight at the Shark Tank.

Power play problems

Vancouver’s power play seriously struggled last season, and one of the biggest complaints was that Jason Garrison‘s booming slapshot was under-utilized as a second unit guy.

Well look out, shot blockers.

Garrison is expected to grace the Canucks’ top unit on the power play, which should open up space on the ice for the Sedins and others to shine with the man advantage.

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About Kevin Vanstone

Born in Vancouver, and a student at UVIC. "The Flying V" follows all things Canucks hockey and covers the best in CIS athletics around the Pacific Northwest. He loves to write about the athletes that used to show him up in his playing days.
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