Jacob Markstrom is expected to make his first start of the NHL season tonight, leapfrogging Eddie Lack for the pleasure of facing a hungry San Jose Sharks team.
Like the Canucks, San Jose is fighting for its life in the always-cannibalistic Western Conference. Every loss is a four-point swing; every win is only an inch towards nailing down a postseason berth. And every overtime loss is a disappointment, an obvious missed chance – the hardly noticeable mustard stain on a shirt you used to love.
The Canucks have won five of their last seven games but are just five points clear of Calgary, Los Angeles, and San Jose – all Pacific Division rivals, all three teams tied for eighth in the West with 70 points.
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Before Monday, the Sharks had lost five of their previous six games and their standing out West. But they took a bit out of Montreal last night, winning 4-0 in Northern California before the made the hike north to face Markstrom and Vancouver.
Markstrom, acquired by the Canucks last year along with Shawn Matthias, in exchange for longtime starter Roberto Luongo, has spent his entire 2014-15 season in the AHL with the Utica Comets. He has had a stellar season, maybe the best of any affiliate-level goaltender, allowing just 1.95 goals per game and stopping 93.2 per cent of the shots he’s faced.
The 25-year-old was selected in the first round by the Florida Panthers in 2008 and, after a silver medal-winning showing at that year’s World Juniors, Markstrom was widely referred to as the best goalie in the world not in the NHL.
He has stuttered so far, failing to lock down a permanent job with the Florida or the Canucks to-date, but an injury to Ryan Miller has thrust Markstrom and Lack into the spotlight of a team clinging to second position in the Pacific Division.