Could tonight be the night for the Vancouver Canucks?
After a truly embarrassing 0-3-0 road trip last week, the team returned to Rogers Arena on Wednesday night, desperately looking for answers against the Colorado Avalanche.
It was a much better effort from the Canucks, especially compared to their previous 7-1 beatdown in Denver that kickstarted this never-ending downward spiral but, unfortunately, the team wasn’t able to secure the victory, falling to the Avalanche by a score of 4-2.
With the defeat, Vancouver has now been outscored by a margin of 26-10 during their current five-game losing streak, and will be looking to turn their misery around against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.
As we’ve seen far too often already, this contest is yet another tale of two widely different teams.
Winnipeg is currently tied with Minnesota for first in the Central Division, large in part thanks to the impressive play of Kyle Connor. Over his first 16 games, Connor has amassed 12 goals and nine assists, good for fifth in scoring amongst all NHL players, and will be looking to help his team secure their seventh win in 11 games.
Vancouver, on the other hand, has been trending in the opposite direction. The team is still searching for their sixth regulation win of the year, and currently sit seventh in the Pacific Division with a record of 5-10-2.
For context, the newly-introduced Seattle Kraken are just three points behind Vancouver with a game in hand.
The Canucks didn’t practice on Thursday, opting for a team workout instead, but did hit the ice on Friday morning to work on a few drills and sequences.
Upon further examination, it appears that head coach Travis Green reverted back to his previously-used line combinations, moving J.T. Miller back to the middle with Conor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin, while slotting Elias Pettersson on a line with Jason Dickinson and Brock Boeser.
However, the bench boss provided more clarity on the line rushes during Friday morning’s media availability, stating that he, in fact, won’t be making any changes from Wednesday night.
Of course, Green had to make some modifications to his roster given his team’s recent stretch of horrendous games, and it looks like fans will witness those personnel changes on the man advantage.
It’s no surprise that Vancouver has been struggling in the special teams department, with their powerplay boasting an underwhelming success rate of just 14.5%, good for 27th in the league.
As a result, Green decided to inject some new blood into the first unit with Garland and Alex Chiasson, while also bringing Pettersson and Boeser down to the secondary unit with Nils Höglander, Tanner Pearson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
This demotion isn’t totally unwarranted, however.
Over the past five games, Boeser and Pettersson have combined for just three points, all of which came against the Anaheim Ducks on November 9th. During that span, both players have averaged less than 20 minutes of ice time, a stat that shouldn’t be associated with your star players.
Pettersson also spoke to the media on Friday morning, answering questions not only about his overall gameplay, but also in regards to the growing doubt and concern from the fanbase and coaching staff.
Fortunately for the Canucks, Friday night might be the perfect match-up to help resurrect their putrid powerplay. Winnipeg’s penalty kill has been firing blanks all season, executing at a 65.9% success rate that has dragged them down to 31st in the league.
Of course, we don’t need a reminder of who currently holds the 32nd ranking at this moment in time.
Special teams battle aside, Vancouver will also be facing off against a familiar face in Nate Schmidt on Friday.
The 30-year-blueliner has excelled with his new club, notching 11 points in his first 16 games, and is well on his way to easily surpassing the 15-point mark that he achieved with Vancouver last season. Schmidt is currently playing on Winnipeg’s top defensive pairing with Josh Morrissey, while also occupying a spot on the team’s first powerplay unit.
Thatcher Demko will be between the pipes for the 14th time this year, looking to rebuild his 3.31 GAA and .898 SV%. Demko will be squaring off against back-up netminder Eric Comrie, who hasn’t played since November 6th.
Connor Hellebuyck will get the night off after turning aside 31 shots in a losing effort against Edmonton on Thursday night.
Similar to Wednesday, this is a must-win contest for Vancouver. No more excuses, no more moral victories, no more passengers on the ice.
With just under a week until American Thanksgiving, one of the most common playoff benchmarks for NHL teams, the Canucks will need to dig deep, battle hard and come away with at least a point.
It’s clear that General Manager Jim Benning still doesn’t have the answers, so let’s hope that the players do.
Puck drop is set for 7:00pm PST.
What are your thoughts heading into Friday night’s game against Winnipeg? Make sure to drop a comment below!