Gameday Preview: Vancouver Canucks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (November 24th)

Dec 21, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers (57) defends against Pittsburgh Penguins forward Bryan Rust (17) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers (57) defends against Pittsburgh Penguins forward Bryan Rust (17) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks need a win tonight.

The team made their way to Pittsburgh on Monday night, hopefully already in full mental preparation for their contest against the Penguins to kick off their five-game road trip. Vancouver will be looking for better results than their most recent homestand, which saw them go 1-2-0, including a frustrating 1-0 shutout loss to the lowly, fatigued Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

The Canucks took to the ice for practice on Tuesday morning, giving media a first glimpse at how head coach Travis Green was planning to roll out his line combinations.

The biggest head-turner was the absence of J.T. Miller.

It had already been a wild 24 hours for the former Tampa Bay Lightning forward, who was under the microscope after reports of a possible trade with Minnesota surfaced on Monday evening.

Fortunately for the team (and for the sanity of the fanbase), Green made sure to squash the speculation, confirming that Miller just needed a maintenance day to rest up.

Miller, who was back on the ice on Wednesday during the morning skate, leads the team in goals (7), points (19) and powerplay points (7). He and blueliner Quinn Hughes are atop the assist department with 12 apiece.

With Miller back at practice, Green was able to get a better look at the combination of Conor Garland, Elias Pettersson and Vasily Podkolzin. The trio one played one shift together on Sunday night, but looked absolutely electric in Chicago’s end, cycling the puck with ease while also creating two dangerous scoring chances in the process.

With the new line configuration, Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson were bumped down to the bottom-six rotation, skating on the third line with Tyler Motte, while Nils Höglander and Brock Boeser are back on the top line with Miller on the top line, who is slated as a game-time decision.

All eyes should be on Boeser for this contest, given his recent offensive outpour against the Penguins. Boeser has recorded seven goals and three assists in just four career games against Pittsburgh, including his first NHL hat-trick back on November 4th, 2017.

However, Boeser isn’t the only player to have performed well in this match-up.

Sidney Crosby has also found success playing against Vancouver, notching eight goals and eight assists in 17 career games. The 34-year-old captain has had an unlucky start to the season with injury and COVID-19, and is likely chomping at the bit to get back on the scoresheet in an impactful way.

The team also spent time working on their powerplay, which has been underwhelming over the first 19 games of the season. Vancouver currently sits 23rd in the league at just 16.2%, and have only registered two powerplay tallies in their past four games, both of which came against Winnipeg last Friday.

Like we’ve seen before, it appears that Green will continue to evenly spread out his top players throughout both units, with Boeser and Pettersson remaining on the secondary squad.

Green also gave Podkolzin a look on PP2, switching the Russian rookie with Höglander every few drills. Although very impressive at 5-on-5 this year, Höglander only has one powerplay point through 19 games.

The young Swede was also took a stick to the mouth on Tuesday morning, which left him quite bloody.

The good news for Vancouver’s special teams? Their man advantage won’t be the worst of the two on Wednesday night.

Pittsburgh currently sits dead last in the league, firing at a success rate of just 11.1%, which should hopefully be a massive confidence booster for Vancouver’s penalty kill as well.

The Canucks also needed to make some adjustments on their blueline, as Travis Hamonic did not travel with the team for the second consecutive road trip. The 31-year-old is still not eligible to play south of the border due to his current vaccination status.

As a result, Brad Hunt and Luke Schenn were both utilized on the third pairing during practice. Hunt hasn’t played since Vancouver’s 5-2 loss to Anaheim on November 14th, while Schenn was just recently activated from the team’s IR list after suffering an undisclosed injury. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has two assists in five games this year.

Thatcher Demko will be between the pipes for the 16th time this season. The 25-year-old currently holds a record of 6-8-1 with a .905 SV% and 3.07 GAA, and will be looking to add to the win column up against Tristan Jarry.

Vancouver currently sits seventh in the Pacific Division, just three points ahead of Seattle. Pittsburgh, winners of their past three contests, are tied for fourth in the Metropolitan Division.

These two teams last played on November 27th, 2019, a high-scoring 8-6 affair that ultimately went to the Penguins.

Puck drop is set for 4:00pm PST.

Next. Betting odds and predictions for Canucks vs. Penguins (Nov 24th). dark

What are your thoughts heading into Wednesday’s tilt against Pittsburgh? Make sure to drop a comment below!