First place in the Western Conference will be on the line tonight when the Vancouver Canucks (27-8-5), winners of their last eight straight games, close out a three-game home stand hosting the Detroit Red Wings (26-10-5) in a nationally televised contest on Hockey Night in Canada.
With all due respect to the other 10 games on the NHL schedule tonight, the marquee can't miss match-up will be contested at Rogers Arena when the two top teams in the entire League go head-to-head. It's a game you can bet the Canucks have had circled on their calendar ever since dropping a 5-4 overtime decision at the Joe Louis Arena to the Red Wings in a game they probably figured they should have won after letting a late third period lead slip through their fingers.
The Canucks may have been looking forward to this visit by the Red Wings yesterday but that sure didn't affect their gameplan against the Oilers one bit as they easily romped over their divisional foes from Edmonton in what could only be described as a warm-up for the Canucks by a count of 6-1 on the strength of a Ryan Kesler hat-trick and a 23-save performance by backup netminder Cory Schneider.
The victory for Vancouver extended their win streak to eight games - the first time they have won eight in a row since setting their franchise record of 10 straight victories back in November 2002 - and also set a new franchise record for longest streak without a regulation loss at 15 games (13-0-2). By virtue of the victory over the Oilers, the Canucks guaranteed that they will have the best record in the NHL at the midway mark of the season which they will reach tonight when they play their 41st game of the season against Detroit. They've also assured that head coach Alain Vigneault will be representing the club at the NHL All-Star Game which takes place at the end of January.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo, who was given the night off yesterday, will be the man tasked with trying to help keep the Canucks' streak alive tonight as he makes just his fourth start in the last nine games. He'll also be aiming to equal Cory Schneider's recently-matched team record of 10 consecutive games without a regulation loss for a Canucks netminder after Schneider tied the franchise mark last night with his win over the Oilers. Luongo is unbeaten in regulation in his last nine outings (8-0-1) entering play tonight. Chris Osgood is expected to start for the Red Wings.