Can the Vancouver Canucks make it two in a row?
The team is preparing for game five of their seven-game homestand, taking on Filip Forsberg and the Nashville Predators on Friday night.
It hasn’t been the best stretch of games at Rogers Arena, with the Canucks currently sporting a 1-3 home record to kick off the season, but they are also coming off of a thrilling 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers and will be looking to build off the momentum.
The Canucks had a day off on Wednesday before returning to the ice on Thursday morning.
Head coach Travis Green ended up putting his lines into a blender on Tuesday night, particularly in the first two periods, but it appears that the bench boss will be sticking with the combinations from the final frame.
The biggest change for most fans will be the newly-formed second line of J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson and Conor Garland. The trio played well together in the third period, combining for two goals and four points to force the game past 60 minutes.
It’ll be interesting to see if Miller, Pettersson and Garland can maintain their chemistry as linemates, especially given the small on-ice sample size on Tuesday, as well as Miller and Pettersson’s inconsistencies to begin the season.
However, all three players bring energy, offensive firepower and high-level skill to the roster on a nightly basis, and could very well be Vancouver’s new threat in the top-six rotation.
Of course, Garland’s promotion isn’t exactly the best news for Brock Boeser. The 24-year-old winger found himself demoted to the bottom-six on Thursday morning, skating alongside Jason Dickinson and Vasily Podkolzin.
Bo Horvat, Tanner Pearson and Nils Höglander remained united on the team’s top line.
Similar to his Lotto Line mates, Boeser has also had a slow start to the season, notching just two goals and one assist in seven games. Boeser did miss the majority of the preseason, as well as the first three games of the year due to injury, which could account for his low production rate so far, but it appears that the former 2015 first rounder will be asked to rediscover his goal-scoring ways on the third line.
Fortunately for Boeser, he should have more scoring opportunity on the man advantage.
The Canucks also practiced their powerplay formations on Thursday morning, with Green opting for different personnel on his special teams. As expected, Miller and Pettersson continued to lead the charge on the primary, but will have new faces in Garland, Boeser and Oliver Ekman-Larsson rounding out the first squad instead.
Since returning from injury, Boeser has primarily played on the second unit, with Alex Chiasson taking his position and serving as the strong-net front presence, but it appears that the Canucks are hoping that Boeser’s promotion will lead to more pucks in the back of the net.
The team is also be hoping that Garland and Ekman-Larsson will be able to supply some of the energy and cohesion from the team’s secondary unit, which has performed significantly better than their counterpart in the first 10 games of the season.
Höglander, Pearson and Chiasson will resume their regular roles on the second unit, while Horvat and Quinn Hughes will be relied upon for their strong powerplay experience and execution.
Boeser isn’t the only player who is expected to play lower in the line-up.
On the blueline, Travis Hamonic once again skated with Luke Schenn on the third pairing. It’s been a roller coaster for Hamonic, who made his Canucks season debut on Tuesday after missing the first nine games due to a personal family matter.
Hamonic had a good outing against the Rangers, playing just over 17 minutes of relatively mistake-free hockey, but won’t be rejoining the top-four defensive core just yet. Hamonic, who signed a two-year, $6 million extension this past offseason, was brought back to be the sound, defensively-reliable partner for Hughes, but hasn’t gained the trust of the coaching staff just yet.
Hamonic will also not be joining the team on their three-game road trip at the end of the week due to his current vaccination status, which could pave the way for the return of Jack Rathbone.
As expected, Thatcher Demko will be between the pipes against Nashville. The 25-year-old was once again lights out in his previous outing, which was highlighted by a series of eye-popping saves to keep the contest tied up in the dying minutes of the third period.
Demko will be up against Juuse Saros who, like Demko, will also be looking for his fifth win of the season.
The Predators are off to a decent start this year, posting a 5-5 record that puts them fourth in the Central Division, and are hoping to finish off their Western Canada road trip with a win. Nashville beat Calgary on Tuesday night, but fell to the mighty Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
Vancouver currently sits last in the Pacific Division with nine points, but don’t be surprised if they put together a high-scoring performance against Nashville, given their previous successes against the club.
The Canucks will also be rolling out Diwali celebrations on Friday, which will be highlighted by Vancity Bhangra dancers, Beat by Dhol drummers and “Diwali Plaza” outside Rogers Arena.
Jugpreet Bajwa will return for the national anthems, in addition to special warm-up jerseys designed by local South Asian artist Jag Nagra.
Puck drop is set for 7:00pm PST.
What are your thoughts heading into Friday’s tilt against Nashville? Make sure to drop a comment below!