Oh, what a difference a few months makes.
The Boston Bruins are in their greatest hits era. They’ve hit the ‘Ozymandias‘ stage – standing around their statue, watching the low and level stands stretch far, far away. Boston, just a season removed from a Presidents’ Trophy and a somewhat surprising second-round exit at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, are searching for air in the Eastern Conference – they sit just barely in eighth place, with an injury to playmaking center David Krejci a new obstacle in a year of many.
And then, on the other side of 2011’s Stanley Cup sideline, is the Vancouver Canucks.
Cup contenders? Certainly not yet. Or maybe not ever, with this exact roster. Not barring a miracle or some kind of L.A. Kings-style spring of self-discovery. But Vancouver’s certainly exceeded the expectations of many this season – after a lost 2014, just scoring goals on the reg topped most fans’ Christmas wish lists.
And while the Western Conference playoff race is a cannibalistic fight for survival, there the Canucks are right in the thick of it – currently in fifth place, a hair above Winnipeg, Minnesota, L.A, Calgary, and San Jose, and just a sliver behind the Chicago Blackhawks.
They can keep pace with the tidal wave tonight in Boston, when the Canucks face the Bruins for the second and final time this season.
(Vancouver won the team’s only meeting-to-date on February 14, with Shawn Matthias scoring a hat-trick in a 5-2 Canucks win.)
The Canucks will get Nick Bonino back tonight. The team’s second center, Bonino – who joined the team last summer, coming our way from Anaheim in exchange for Ryan Kesler – has been out since February 9.
He has 25 points in 52 games this season, slowing down considerably after an unsustainably hot start.
“You always want to get back,” Bonino said this morning (NHL.com). “And if you can do it in Boston, where you’ve played a little bit in your life, it’s always going to be fun.”
(Bonino played his college hockey at Boston University, and was born and raised in Connecticut.)
The Canucks will also throw Eddie Lack into the starter’s role tonight. Lack will fill in for the injured Ryan Miller, who’s out four-to-six weeks with a knee injury, and will be backed up by the AHL’s goalie of the year to-date, Jacob Markstrom.
“The last game shows that, too, that anything can happen, so I’m just trying to do my best, one step and a time here, and see where it’s going to take me,” Lack told Canucks TV on Tuesday.
“I think the guys in the locker room have all the confidence in the world in him,” said Alex Biega, one of Vancouver’s recent rookie call-ups from Utica, who’s now played four games with the big club.
“He’s a great goaltender. He proved that the other night against the Isles, getting the shutout when Miller went down.”
Vancouver’s coming off a 4-0 shutout of the New York Islanders on Sunday, which Biega alluded to in the quote above. Although, Lack didn’t get official credit for the shutout – Miller left the game with his injury after the Canucks had already gone ahead 1-0.
*Tonight’s game drops the puck at 4:00 p.m. PST – Sportsnet Pacific on TV, TSN 1040 on the radio.