The Vancouver Canucks are in need of some home-ice redemption.
The team kicked off their seven-game homestand on Tuesday night, falling to the Minnesota Wild in their highly-anticipated home opener, and will be looking to bounce back against Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
The two teams have already met once this season, with Vancouver earning the two points in a shootout, but Philadelphia has performed much better since then. The Flyers will be entering Rogers Arena with wins in three of their past four contests, including a 5-3 victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.
The Canucks, on the other hand, haven’t faired as well. The team currently holds a decent record of 3-3-1, but two of those losses came against Buffalo and Detroit. The Canucks also came out flat against Minnesota on Tuesday night, giving the 18,000+ fans at Rogers Arena lots to complain about.
Vancouver currently sits fourth in the Pacific Division.
The Canucks took to the ice for their morning skate on Thursday, giving us a glimpse of what the possible line combinations might be against the Flyers.
As expected, head coach Travis Green didn’t make any changes to the top line, keeping Bo Horvat, Conor Garland and Tanner Pearson together. The trio didn’t perform too well on Tuesday, with the exception of Horvat’s strong third period outing, but has still been Vancouver’s best line over their first seven contests of the year, and will likely be relied upon to create energy and scoring chances.
Garland, who is sporting a new clean-shaven look, had his six-game point streak snapped on Tuesday but is still tied for the team lead in points with eight.
Green also kept the Lotto Line apart for the second straight practice. Like Tuesday night, the bench boss rolled with a second line of J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser and rookie Vasily Podkolzin, while Elias Pettersson practiced with Nils Höglander and Justin Bailey on the third line.
Bailey was recalled from Abbotsford earlier this week, and he definitely made the most of his NHL promotion. The 26-year-old winger put his speed and size on full display on Tuesday, while also helping out on the team’s penalty kill.
Bailey played just over 10 minutes, including 2:15 shorthanded, but could see a jump in his TOI if he plays well with Pettersson.
Bailey is serving as the replacement for Justin Dowling, who suffered an undisclosed injury at the end of the road trip.
The Canucks will also be without Jason Dickinson. The former Dallas Star was questionable for the home-opener after leaving Tuesday’s practice early, but ended up being a last-minute scratch. Dickinson didn’t participate at all during Thursday’s morning skate.
It appears that Green will also be making some tweaks to his blueline, particularly on the third-pairing.
Jack Rathbone skated as an extra with Brad Hunt, while Luke Schenn took line rushes with Kyle Burroughs. Rathbone struggled quite a bit on Tuesday night, especially in his own end with his defensive fundamentals. The Canucks only had five defencemen for most of the game after Tucker Poolman left the contest with an injury, but Rathbone still didn’t even crack the 10-minute mark for TOI, showing how Green felt about his overall performance.
It also appears that Poolman will be a game-time decision. The former Winnipeg Jet was able to participate in line rushes at the beginning, but eventually left the morning skate early.
In other words, we’ll have to wait and see how Green handles his defensive pairings on Thursday.
Jaroslav Halak will be between the pipes in relief for Thatcher Demko, who is coming off four consecutive starts. This will be Halak’s second appearance with the Canucks. The 36-year-old allowed two goals against Detroit in a losing fashion last Saturday, and currently holds a 0.900 SV% and 2.07 GAA.
The Canucks also practiced their powerplay formations during morning skate. The team was much better at entering the offensive zone and maintaining consistent pressure on Tuesday night, and were eventually rewarded for their efforts, thanks to Alex Chiasson’s second goal of the year.
As a result, it appears that Green will be sticking with the same units, despite many fans pleading for Boeser to reclaim his spot on the primary powerplay squad.
The Canucks will be looking to stop Philadelphia’s steady offence, which has notched 19 goals in their past four games. In particular, the Canucks will need to focus on Cam Atkinson. The former Columbus Blue Jacket, who was traded this past offseason, is off to a hot start with his new team. Atkinson has registered at least one point in his first five games this season.
This is also the first time that Canucks fans will see Zack MacEwen in a different jersey. MacEwen was claimed off of waivers by the Flyers during the preseason, and will be looking to seek revenge against his former club.
MacEwen has suited up for three contests with Philadelphia, but is still searching for his first point.
He will be playing on the fourth line with Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Nate Thompson.
Puck drop is set for 7pm PST.
What are your thoughts heading into Thursday’s match-up against Philadelphia? Let us know in the comments!