The Vancouver Canucks are still a week away from coming home.
The team will be kicking off the back-end of their current road trip with a Tuesday afternoon match-up against the Buffalo Sabres. The Canucks were able to collect three of a possible six points in their first three contests of the year and currently sit third in the Pacific Division behind Edmonton and Anaheim.
Meanwhile, the Sabres are off to somewhat of a surprising start, sporting a 2-0-0 record that also puts them third in their division.
Last three games:
- Vancouver Canucks (2) @ Edmonton Oilers (3) – shootout
- Vancouver Canucks (5) @ Philadelphia Flyers (4) – shootout
- Vancouver Canucks (1) @ Detroit Red Wings (3)
The Canucks were given a much-needed day off on Sunday before practicing again in Detroit on Monday morning. Unlike their Saturday afternoon contest in Motor City, it appears that head coach Travis Green could be making a few line-up changes heading into Buffalo.
The most notable addition to the line rushes was winger Brock Boeser, who was skating with Elias Pettersson and Nils Höglander on the top line.
Boeser suffered an undisclosed injury during a preseason contest against Seattle, which has ultimately forced him to miss the first three games of the season. Boeser had been skating as an extra during practices up until this point, so it’s definitely encouraging to see the 24-year-old back with his teammates.
Boeser also found himself on the first powerplay unit, replacing newcomer Alex Chiasson who had been filling in the understudy for Boeser. Chiasson registered a goal and an assist during his time on the man advantage, putting him tied for first amongst all players in powerplay points, but there’s no doubt that the team is looking forward to having Boeser back on the top unit as soon as they can.
The Canucks currently sit 13th in the league with a powerplay success rate of 25%, but haven’t bene able to establish consistent chemistry and pressure while up a man, especially with their top guns on the ice.
As usual, Green was tight-lipped about Boeser’s possible return to the line-up on Tuesday afternoon, but the bench boss appears hopeful.
It also appears that Green will not be reuniting the Lotto Line just yet, despite Boeser fully practicing with the team again, and might be trying out J.T. Miller at centre instead.
Miller skated with Justin Dowling and Vasily Podkolzin on the third line on Monday, while also sporting the team’s bottom-six white practice jersey. With Brandon Sutter still suffering from long-term fatigue symptoms as a result of COVID-19, there has been lots of conversation about Miller slotting into the 3C role behind Horvat and Pettersson, and it looks like that might be the case on Tuesday.
Miller has experience playing down the middle, most notably last year while Pettersson was sidelined with a wrist injury, and, if all goes well with this experiment, could give Vancouver one of the better 1-2-3 centre punches in the league.
Jason Dickinson occupied the fourth-line centre role during morning skate, with Matthew Highmore and Juho Lammikko on his flanks.
The blueline also looked a bit different on Monday morning, with Brad Hunt slotting in as a replacement for Quinn Hughes, who was given some much-needed rest.
Hughes has had an extremely busy start to the season, averaging an ice time of 27:52 over the first three contests, including 29:09 on Saturday afternoon against Detroit. As expected, Hughes has become a staple for the team at even strength and on the powerplay, and is also being used more against opponents’ top players, so these maintenance days could be occurring more often than not throughout the season.
Hughes skated during the team’s optional practice on Tuesday morning, and will be expected to round out the top-four defensive rotation against Buffalo alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tyler Myers and Tucker Poolman.
Fans could also see some changes on the team’s third-pairing, with Green hinting to the idea that Hunt or Luke Schenn might make their regular season debut soon. The roles are currently occupied by Jack Rathbone and Kyle Burroughs, both who have been quite steady over the past three games.
Thatcher Demko will return to the crease after sitting out Saturday’s contest. Demko is currently sporting a record of 1-0-1 with a .913 SV% and 2.79 GAA and, to no one’s surprise, has been one of Vancouver’s best players so far.
Unlike Vancouver, Buffalo won’t be tinkering with their roster at all, and will be going with the same line combinations from their 2-1 shootout victory against Arizona on Saturday night.
Buffalo has outscored their opponents by a margin of 7-2 this season, including a 5-1 beatdown of the Montreal Canadiens, and have been riding the successes of 40-year-old netminder Craig Anderson.
Anderson will be getting his third straight start between the pipes for his new team on Tuesday.
Puck drop is set for 4:00pm PST from Keybank Center.
What are your thoughts on the possible line combinations for Tuesday’s contest in Buffalo? Let us know in the comments!