The San Jose Sharks will try to snap a seven-game losing streak on Thursday night when they visit the Vancouver Canucks.
Both teams are well out of the Stanley Cup playoff picture. San Jose (19-37-15, 53 points) has the worst record in the Western Conference and is just two points ahead of Columbus in the battle for the No. 1 spot in the NHL Draft Lottery on May 8. Vancouver (31-34-5, 67 points), which is 16 points behind Winnipeg for the final wild-card spot, has the eighth-worst record in the league.
With the likely first pick 17-year-old center Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League — considered a generational talent and the most-hyped prospect since Connor McDavid — there has been speculation that some teams might want to tank down the stretch to increase their odds in the draft lottery.
Vancouver center J.T. Miller, however, wants none of that talk.
The Canucks are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and come in off a 4-3 loss to the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. The Canucks fell behind 2-0 in the first period but showed no signs of quitting with Miller garnering two goals, including one on a penalty shot after getting slashed by Shea Theodore on a short-handed breakaway in the second period.
“I don’t know what that mindset is of not going hard and trying to get a high pick,” Miller said. “We’re trying to win games, and if we win a lot, we can get used to winning habits and a winning culture before next year.”
Miller stressed it was more important to set the tone with a winning atmosphere heading into the 2023-24 season than it was to tank games to try to land Bedard.
“It’s too bad we’re not in the (playoff) hunt, but these games are really important,” Miller said. “Our starts to the (season) have been so poor and we’re trying to get a head start to know what the standard is. Everybody should be coming into camp with a clear mind of what’s expected.”
Vancouver overcame a poor first period against Vegas that saw the Canucks outshot 14-5 and commit two costly turnovers that set up goals to give the Golden Knights the early lead. But Vancouver made Vegas sweat a little after Phillip Di Giuseppe put in a rebound of a Miller tip to cut it to 4-3 with 8:17 to go.
San Jose, thanks to James Reimer’s strong goaltending performance, comes in off a tough 5-4 overtime loss at Edmonton on Monday. The Oilers needed Mattias Ekholm’s goal with 3:47 remaining to force overtime, where Darnell Nurse scored on a breakaway with just 15 seconds left to win it.
Reimer finished with a season-high 47 saves, including a highlight-reel special when he dove across the crease to stop Leon Draisaitl’s shot at an open right side of the net in the final minute of regulation.
“We’ve seen that move before,” San Jose coach David Quinn said. “They’re one of the best teams in the league who have an awful lot of firepower, and I thought we competed. Our goalie played great and I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. It just wasn’t enough.”
–Field Level Media