Can the Vancouver Canucks make it six in a row?
After notching 10 out of a possible 12 points during their most recent homestand, including five consecutive victories under new head coach Bruce Boudreau, the team finally hit the road, preparing to face off against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
Vancouver, who now sit just four points back of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, will be looking to continue their aggressive, high-octane, offensively-driven style of play against the Sharks, who currently hold the fifth spot in the Pacific Division. Meanwhile, the Canucks are hoping to climb out of their current seventh place position.
With a victory on Thursday, Vancouver would be able to improve their record to 8-3 over their past 11 games, which would already surpass their overall point total from the first 25 games of the year. The Sharks, on the other hand, would fall to below .500 over their past 11 contests, opening the door for lots of movement within the division.
After taking the day off on Wednesday, the team participated in their morning skate on Thursday, showcasing the possible line combinations and defensive pairings.
Boudreau hasn’t done too much player juggling since arriving in Vancouver, and that should likely be the case for his forward group in San Jose.
Assuming Boudreau replicates the same line combinations as Tuesday, expect Elias Pettersson to once again assume his third-line centre role, playing alongside Conor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin. The trio delivered yet another strong outing against Columbus, particularly in the third period when Garland and Pettersson connected for Vancouver’s second goal of the game.
Jason Dickinson could also see himself back on the top line with Bo Horvat and Nils Höglander, pushing Tyler Motte down the roster and back onto the fourth line, while J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser and Tanner Pearson are likely to remain together on the second line.
Of course, it’s not the forward group that we need to worry about.
Similar to Tuesday night’s 4-3 comeback victory over Columbus, the Canucks will be without a handful of blueliners, including Brad Hunt, Tucker Poolman and Luke Schenn, who have all been placed on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list, as well as Travis Hamonic, who is still sidelined with injury.
As a result, Boudreau will once again be forced to rely on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Quinn Hughes and Tyler Myers on the backend. The trio led the team in ice time on Tuesday, with Myers clocking in just under 30 minutes to go along with his two assists.
The team also recalled Guillaume Brisebois on emergency from Abbotsford, indicating that the 24-year-old will likely slot into the line-up on the bottom pairings, with Kyle Burroughs and Noah Juulsen.
Thatcher Demko will get the nod between the pipes after getting the night off on Tuesday. The 26-year-old has been stellar in his previous four outings, posting one shutout, a 1.20 GAA and .962 SV% that ultimately earned him first star of the week honours.
The team will also need to find a way to shut down Timo Meier, who leads the Sharks in scoring with 28 points, as well as former Canuck prospect Jonathan Dahlen, who was traded from Vancouver in exchange for Linus Karlsson. Dahlen was originally acquired from Ottawa in the Alex Burrows trade deadline deal.
Former Canuck Jonah Gadjovich, who was claimed off waivers during the preseason, will not play for San Jose.
Puck drop is set for 7:30pm PST at SAP Arena.
What are your thoughts heading into Thursday’s tilt in San Jose? Make sure to drop a comment below!