VANCOUVER - Of the Canucks' remaining 14 regular season games, only two can be considered true measuring-stick matchups.
Thursday's visit to San Jose is one of them.
Vancouver, playing their fourth of a five-game road trip, will face a rejuvenated Sharks team who has won 14 of their last 17 games after a disappointing first half.
San Jose's recent stretch has vaulted them back into first in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference, just two points behind the Detroit Red Wings – the other enticing foe Vancouver will meet in the coming weeks.
With both the Canucks and Sharks piling up wins as of late, tonight's tilt at the HP Pavilion should be a dandy. It is also a preview of a potential playoff clash.
Much like Vancouver with Alex Edler, San Jose is missing their top defenceman in Dan Boyle with an upper-body injury. But even without their leading blueline scorer, the Sharks have won four of their last five. Both teams are also coming off overtime victories, with Patrick Marleau and Dan Hamhuis playing hero for their respective teams.
So far this campaign, the Canucks have had the upper hand in the season series, winning the first two meetings before losing in the shootout in January. The Sedins have seven points between them in those three games and are both coming off a combined six-point showing against the Phoenix Coyotes, putting them in the top three in the NHL scoring race. They'll be looking to solve one of the hotter goaltenders as of late in Antti Niemi –- the second star for February. Cory Schneider will get the start in goal for the Canucks.
After missing Tuesday's game in Phoenix with a shoulder injury, Mason Raymond is expected to return Thursday. Chris Higgins is also expected to make his Canucks debut, starting on the fourth line. The Canucks re-assigned Victor Oreskovich to the Manitoba Moose Wednesday.