The Vancouver Canucks are finally home.
The team kicked off the 2021-22 season on the road, visiting six different cities over 13 days. It wasn’t the prettiest road trip for Vancouver, particularly in the middle, but the team was still able to secure seven of a possible 12 points in the end, including two consecutive victories in Chicago and Seattle to round out their travels.
The Canucks will be making their highly-anticipated return to Rogers Arena on Tuesday night, facing off against Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild. The two clubs haven’t faced off since the play-in round of the 2020 bubble playoffs. The Canucks won that series by a margin of 3-1, thanks to Chris Tanev’s OT heroics, but both rosters look quite different now.
It’s been a strong start for Minnesota this season, who were just handed their first loss of the year on Sunday night. The Canucks, on the other hand, haven’t been as successful as their opponent, and currently sit tied fourth in the Pacific Division behind Edmonton, San Jose and Calgary.
Last three games:
- Vancouver Canucks (2) @ Buffalo Sabres (5)
- Vancouver Canucks (4) @ Chicago Blackhawks (1)
- Vancouver Canucks (4) @ Seattle Kraken (2)
The Canucks had a well-deserved rest day on Sunday before hitting the ice on Monday for their first regular season practice at Rogers Arena.
As expected, head coach Travis Green rolled with very similar line combinations from his team’s past two outings. The only difference appeared on the fourth line, with rookie Vasily Podkolzin slotting into one of the winger positions.
It hasn’t been the easiest start for Podkolzin, who sat out the final two contests on the road trip. Podkolzin is averaging just under nine minutes of ice time so far, which isn’t exactly ideal for a budding rookie, but was able to establish a career-high TOI of 12 minutes on Tuesday night in Buffalo.
Podkolzin replaced Justin Dowling in the line rushes on Monday. Initially, it was reported that Dowling just needed a maintenance day, but his diagnosis changed for the worse on Tuesday.
Green has been quite reserved with Podkolzin so far, restricting him to just occasional appearances in the team’s top-six rotation and powerplay units. That was very much the case on Monday, with Podkolzin skating alongside Juho Lammikko and Alex Chiasson, but the tides might be turning for the young Russian sniper’s home debut.
In typical Canucks fashion, this could very well mean nothing, as indicated by Thomas Drance of The Athletic. But with Dowling on IR, and with Jason Dickinson still feeling a bit banged up after leaving Monday’s practice early, Green had to get creative with his line combinations.
Podkolzin spent some time on the second line during Tuesday’s morning skate, working with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser, while Elias Pettersson found himself centering a line with Matthew Highmore and Nils Höglander.
Bo Horvat, Tanner Pearson and Conor Garland, who have easily been the team’s best trio as of late, remained united during both practices.
Thatcher Demko will also be between the pipes for the fourth consecutive game.
Demko was absolutely stellar against Seattle on Saturday night, and will be looking to improve his record to 4-1-1 on the year. Demko has already faced the third-highest shots against amongst all NHL netminders with 127, only behind Ilya Sorokin and Robin Lehner, and currently boasts an impressive .924 SV% and 2.53 GAA.
Vancouver will be looking to slow down Minnesota’s offence, which is averaging just under 3.5 goals per game so far. Specifically, the Canucks will need to focus on Minnesota’s top line of Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek and Mats Zuccarello. The trio has already accumulated 14 points together, with Zuccarello leading the way with two goals and four assists.
Fans should be prepared for quite the spectacle tonight, as the Canucks organization is expected to go all out with their celebrations and videos. Tonight will mark the first time in 595 days that the Canucks will be playing in front of fans at Rogers Arena, so it’ll be a special night for everyone, no matter the final score.
Doors open at 6pm PST, with puck drop set for shortly after 7pm PST.
What are your thoughts heading into Tuesday night’s home-opener? Let us know in the comments!