The Vancouver Canucks are finally playing hockey games in October.
The team is set to face off against the Calgary Flames for the second time in five days, this time donning the away jerseys at the Saddledome on Friday night.
The Canucks were able to come away with a convincing 4-2 victory on Tuesday night, thanks to tallies from Conor Garland, Chase Wouters, J.T. Miller and Tanner Pearson, as well as the impressive play from rookie Michael DiPietro between the pipes. The team now holds a record of 1-1 heading into Friday’s contest, and will be looking to continue their winning ways against their Pacific Division rival.
Head coach Travis Green and his coaching staff gave their players a day off on Tuesday before hitting the ice at Rogers Arena on Wednesday. As expected, Green did a bit more tweaking with his lines prior to the training session, opting for a more veteran-heavy, professional rotation of players.
Notable exemptions from the line rushes included Jonah Gadjovich and Will Lockwood, who both performed well during the initial drills and scrimmages, but could still end up in Abbotsford come mid-October.
The team also completed drills and line rushes for both special teams units, which will undoubtedly be a huge factor in the Pacific Division playoff race.
The shorthanded squads definitely look quite different compared to last year with the absences of Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel, as well as Brandon Sutter, who is still sidelined due to fatigue issues, and Tyler Motte, who is still recovering from offseason surgery. As a result, Green juggled a few of the newer faces, including Jason Dickinson, Phillip Di Guiseppe and even rookie Vasily Podkolzin.
Assistant coach Jason King led the powerplay units through neutral zone entries and specific drop pass plays, working with a first combination of Garland and Miller, as well as Bo Horvat, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Chiasson, who is looking to land a permanent roster spot after signing a PTO last week. Forwards Brock Boeser, Tanner Pearson, Nils Höglander and Nic Petan rounded out the second unit, with Jack Rathbone patrolling the blueline after a very strong start to his training camp.
Of course, the first powerplay unit will look quite different once the regular season kicks off now that RFA stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes have reportedly agreed to contract extensions, but it’s still good for Green to have flexibility when it comes to his powerplay options.
The lines rushes looked very similar on Thursday, with Green once again putting emphasis on a game-ready roster in preparation for Friday’s tilt. Matthew Highmore was on the outside looking in for the bottom-six, while Sheldon Dries suited up as the extra for the top-six forward group.
The blueline was as expected, with veterans like Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers leading the way. The team is still without Travis Hamonic, who has missed the entirety of training camp so far due to “personal family matters”, according to General Manager Jim Benning. Hamonic has reportedly been considering retirement as a result of his situation, which would leave a hole on the right side of the blueline next to Hughes.
Rathbone also found himself paired up with Luke Schenn, further increasing the gap between he and Olli Juolevi for the final position on the third pairing.
The most notable absence from the group was Boeser, who left practice early on Wednesday after getting banged up a bit. Green didn’t provide a further update, but it is believed that the goal-scoring winger just took a maintenance day. Boeser did not appear on the preseason roster list, which was released through the team’s official Twitter account on Friday afternoon.
Unlike Monday, it appears that Calgary will be going back to some of their veteran players, including Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau. Former Canuck netminder Jacob Markstrom is also expected to start between the pipes for the Flames.
Puck drop is set for 6:00pm PST. Unlike the first two preseason contests, fans can tune into this game on TV through Sportsnet.
Are you excited for Friday’s contest against the Flames? Let us know in the comments below!