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High-scoring Canucks take on offensively challenged Jets

Feb 15, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Nils Hoglander (21) and forward Elias Pettersson (40) and celebrate Lindholm s second goal of the game against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period at Rogers Arena. Vancouver won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a gritty win over Detroit that enabled them to become the first team this season to reach 80 points, the high-scoring Vancouver Canucks host the offensively challenged Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night.

It is a matchup of contrasting styles. The Jets lack offensive firepower but make up for it with one of the stingiest defenses in the league, while the Canucks have the best record in the NHL and are making a major impact in the scoring race.

“I liked the effort,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said after Vancouver’s 4-1 win over the Red Wings on Thursday. “It was a long road trip coming back with the one-day turnaround and I thought the effort was there.”

Vancouver is looking for its fourth straight victory and this is the final game of a two-game homestand before they embark on a three-game road trip against a trio of Western Conference opponents.

Though they don’t always score first, the Canucks don’t give up easily. Three of their players are in the top 10 in the NHL in points, including All-Star forward Elias Pettersson, who has 12 points in his last eight games.

And Pettersson is coming off a three-point night in the win over the Wings.

Elias Lindholm scored two goals as the Canucks extended their lead in the Pacific Division to 12 points over the Vegas Golden Knights.

This was Lindholm’s first game at home since being acquired in a trade with Calgary on Jan. 31. Lindholm, who like Pettersson is a native of Sweden, has proven to be the perfect complement to the ultra-creative Pettersson, who didn’t always mesh offensively with some of the other forwards on Vancouver.

“Pete is unbelievable. Now I play with a Swedishlander,” Lindholm said. “Another Swede, another Elias, it is perfect.”

Thatcher Demko made 27 saves for his league-leading 30th win of the season (30-9-1). The San Diego native improved to 18-2-1 in his past 21 starts.

The Jets have been snake-bitten offensively of late, scoring just four goals in four games since the All-Star break.

But thanks to goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who has given up three goals or fewer in 30 straight games, they are seeking their third straight win.

Hellebuyck was outstanding in their last game, a 1-0 shutout victory over San Jose on Wednesday. He made 17 saves as he picked up his third shutout of the season and 35th of his career.

Winnipeg then limited San Jose to just five shots on goal in the third period.

The Jets led 1-0 after 40 minutes while also dominating in shots on goal 31-12.

“We had 84 shot attempts. We had more than enough scoring chances to score more than one goal,” Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness said.

GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has consistently found ways to keep the Jets in the mix as four of the last six teams they lost to in the postseason have gone on to reach the Stanley Cup Final, including two that won the title.

This is the first of three games between the clubs this season with the Canucks also hosting the next game on March 9. They close out the season against each other in Winnipeg on April 18.

–Field Level Media

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