It’s time the Vancouver Canucks turned it up a notch.
The Vancouver Canucks are going to get their captain back, their top-four defenceman back, and their points back — at least try to. The last stretch for the honour of competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup starts this week, the 18th week of the NHL season.
After watching the NHL All-Stars unfold the way it did, I forgot that the Pacific Division is the worst in the NHL. What does it mean for the Canucks? It means that they are fourth in the division that takes up five spots in the league’s bottom 13.
If the beginning of the season was headlined by how high in the standings Vancouver was despite their poor play, thanks to the weak Pacific, the finishing stretch of the season is going to be a whole lot different.
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The Pacific is catching up to them. In fact, it already has. Only the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers are behind the Canucks. The story now is about how low in the standings Vancouver is despite the superb performance of Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, and the Sedins.
Before we get to the two home games of Week 18, here are other storylines to watch this week.
Captain Henrik’s Return
Henrik Sedin should return to the lineup after missing the last few games before the All-Star Break. Brandon Sutter having come back from his injury in Henrik’s absence, you would have to think that there will be a lot of line shuffling to be done for Willie Desjardins’s squad. Henrik’s return will also put the Canucks past the 23-skater roster limit. Expect Brandon Prust or another to get moved soon.
Dan Hamhuis‘s Return
A similar storyline as Henrik, except that when Hamhuis comes back, he will be playing under a lot more pressure. The pressure is on him to prove himself fit after his facial injury to potentially draw interest from the rest of the league that is seeking a top-four rental help. Again, Hamhuis’s return will spell the end of a defenceman’s tenure with the Canucks — likely of one of the two pending free agent blueliners, Yannick Weber and Matt Bartkowski.
Hamhuis’s return will also push Jim Benning‘s abilities to the test as his contract would no longer be relieved via the long-term injury cap relief. Some $1.2 million in salary has got to go.
And there is another figure returning to his old battlegrounds. Here it is, the Week 18 Outlook and Predictions.
Next: Home vs. Columbus