Hot Markstrom looks to help Canucks stifle Ducks

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The Vancouver Canucks will try to maintain their slim lead in the Pacific Division when they host the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday afternoon.

The Canucks came into Saturday with a three-point cushion over the Edmonton Oilers, Vegas Golden Knights and Calgary Flames.

The game against Anaheim is the only one in a six-day stretch for the Canucks, making it likely Jacob Markstrom starts in goal for the sixth straight game. He’s coming off a career-high 49-save effort in a 3-0 win against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

“We’ve got to tighten up. We can’t give Marky that much work on a daily basis,” Vancouver forward Bo Horvat told reporters after the win. “He’s a brick wall back there and it’s nice to have, but we have to clean it up a bit.”

The Ducks were on the other side of a stellar goalie performance in their last game. They sent 44 shots at Flames goalie Cam Talbot on Thursday night and he stopped them all in a 6-0 victory, ending a season-high five-game point streak for Anaheim.

“We’ve got to have more jam in those games,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins told reporters after the loss. “You’ve got to find a way to get one more body to the net, or one more puck to the net. We learn from these. As much as you want to keep point streaks going, I think a kick in the rear end is good for you every once and a while.”

Talbot’s only shutout last season came against the Ducks, and the same for Markstrom, who had 29 saves in a 4-0 win against visiting Anaheim on Feb. 25, the only win for Vancouver in a three-week stretch.

Vancouver was the hotter team when it hosted Anaheim in their only meeting this season on Nov. 1, but the Ducks pulled off a 2-1 overtime win. Markstrom gambled and came out of his net on a breakaway by Ryan Getzlaf in overtime, but the veteran center pulled the puck away from the goalie and scored into the open net.

The Ducks would follow that victory with a five-game winless streak and it would be another 2 1/2 months before they won two games in a row again.

Scoring has been their Achilles’ heel again this season.

After finishing last in the league in goals per game last season (2.39), the Ducks have only risen two spots this season (2.47).

“We’re a team that’s challenged to score goals, so we have to be on point right away defensively, and to a man, and that includes all ages on our team,” Eakins said. “Not just our young guys, who we talk a lot about here, but our veteran guys have to be much better.”

Vancouver seems to have solved its scoring issues this season. The Canucks are ranked 10th in scoring (3.22) after finishing tied for 25th last season (2.67).

“Sometimes, I wonder where the goals are going to come from, but we scratch and claw,” Canucks coach Travis Green said.

–Field Level Media

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