The Vancouver Canucks are one of the hottest teams in the NHL despite turning to a rookie goaltender out of necessity.
The Canucks will likely turn to Eddie Lack to help them conclude 2013 with their 11th win of the month Monday night, when they try to slow down Simmonds and the surging Flyers.
Vancouver (23-11-6) is 10-1-1 this month after going 2-5-3 in November. The Canucks' tremendous turnaround includes yielding an average of 1.5 goals while compiling three shutouts, and they've outscored opponents 20-6 while winning six in a row at home.
They were impressive defensively again Sunday, when Lack needed to make just 18 saves in a 2-0 win at Calgary.
"It was a pretty easy night for me," Lack said. "I had to be sharp a couple times, but overall I felt that our D-men boxed them out really good."
Lack is 5-0-0 with a 0.98 goals-against average in six games - four starts - in December. He's expected to be back in net since No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
"The guys are playing awesome in front of me," Lack said. "I can't really complain about anything. I just want to keep it going."
Lack, though, likely will face a stiff test against Simmonds and the Flyers (18-16-4), who are 5-1-1 in their last seven games.
Simmonds has seven goals and two assists during a season-high five-game point streak, scoring three times on the power play. The right wing had found the net twice in each of the past three games, becoming the first Flyer to string together three multigoal games since Reggie Leach in 1981.
"He's at the net all the time and that's where he gets his goals," coach Craig Berube told the team's official website. "He does all the little things. He works hard to get in there and gets pucks back to the defensemen. Then, on the power play he gets to a lot of loose pucks and gets them to (Claude) Giroux and then gets to the net.
"That's how he's successful."
Simmonds' impressive stretch continued Saturday, scoring two power-play goals to help rally Philadelphia to a 4-3 shootout win at Edmonton in the opener of its six-game trip.
Like Lack, Simmonds is also in for a tough matchup. He's scored just once in 13 career meetings with the Canucks, and that came in a road defeat with Los Angeles on Nov. 26, 2009. He's failed to find the net in seven games since, including a 3-2 home defeat on Oct. 15.
Philadelphia's power play is giving the team hope of evening the season series. The unit is 12 for 46 on the power play during a 6-3-2 stretch and went 3 for 5 versus Edmonton.
"It's huge for us," right wing Jakub Voracek said. "There are so many games on the line where the power play's going to make a difference."
Voracek has six goals and nine assists during a career-high nine-game point streak, and he's managed three of each on the power play. He had one goal and three assists on the man-advantage over the first 29 games.
Voracek has nine points in 14 career games with the Canucks, but just two in six visits to Rogers Arena.
Mike Santorelli has been a pleasant surprise for the Canucks lately, totaling nine points in nine games after scoring his ninth goal of the season against the Flames. The center, though, has only one assist in his past eight meetings with the Flyers.
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- Vancouver Canucks
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Wayne Simmonds
- Eddie Lack