Canucks Gameday Preview: First matchup of the season against Ottawa

Less than two weeks into the season, Vancouver Canucks fans are already starting to worry about the team, and rightfully so.

The Canucks now boast a putrid record of 2-5, which has resulted in the lowest winning percentage in the entire league. More concerning, however, is the team’s defence, or lack thereof. Vancouver has now conceded 33 goals in total while also surrounding five or more in four consecutive games.

With Ottawa in town, the Canucks needs to take advantage and pull out some wins; the Senators are currently last in the division, although they do have two games in hand.

With that said, Vancouver can’t underestimate their opponent if they want to salvage their season.

Vancouver’s lineup

Saturday night saw the Lotto Line get split up for the first time this year when the trio were all in the lineup. Even so, I expect Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and J.T. Miller to be reunited since they scored the first Canucks goal during their last meeting against Montreal.

This allows Nils Hoglander to remain with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson as well, and they also got on the scoresheet on Saturday. Simply put, I think that the team’s top six will revert back to its usual state, with the Lotto Line together and Hoglander alongside Horvat.

The bottom six, however, is where things get interesting. Adam Gaudette was a healthy scratch on Saturday, and it seems like he might watch from the press box again given the line combinations at practice yesterday.

More surprising is the fact that Justin Bailey was chosen to replace Jay Beagle after the veteran left the ice with an apparent injury.

Gaudette will certainly need to step up his play if he wants to get back on the ice.

The defensive pairs, as you saw in Brendan Batchelor’s tweet, will likely stay the same, as Travis Hamonic isn’t ready to make his return just yet.

In net, expect Thatcher Demko to get the start after Braden Holtby was given the nod on Saturday. It’ll be interesting to see what type of performance Demko gives after allowing seven goals in his last game, even though most of them weren’t on him.

Ottawa’s lineup

If you wanted to catch a glimpse of 2020 third overall pick Tim Stutzle in action, that will unfortunately have to wait. The rookie was recently placed on injured reserve after sustaining a minor injury during Ottawa’s last game, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be out for long.

Up front, the Senators will likely have Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson on the top line. Chris Tierney, Derek Stepan, and Connor Brown make up a veteran second unit, which pushes Evgenii Dadonov onto the third line and provides them with more firepower in their bottom six.

On defence, expect Thomas Chabot, Nikita Zaitsev, Mike Reilly, and Josh Brown to make up the top four. Matt Murray, meanwhile, will get the nod in net after backing up Marcus Hogberg during Ottawa’s previous game.

Players to watch

Zack MacEwen: Macewen has seen limited ice time so far but has looked good in the minutes he’s been given. The 24 year old’s work ethic and hustle have been noticeable and he could also be on the second power play unit as a net-front presence. Gaudette’s absence might be extended even further if MacEwen keeps up his play.

Josh Norris: Tkatchuk and Stuzle have gotten all the spotlight in Ottawa for being recent high draft picks, but Josh Norris will soon become a household name as well. After scoring more than a point per game in the AHL last year, the rookie has gotten off to a red hot start with four points in the first five games this season.

Puck drops at 7 PM in what will be the first of three consecutive meetings between the two teams. The Canucks have an opportunity to make up some ground in the division, and hopefully that starts tonight.