It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Vancouver Canucks play hockey, and that absence might be extended even further.
After their weekend match-ups against Toronto and Arizona were postponed on the 18th and 19th, the Canucks joined the other 31 clubs in an early league-wide Christmas break from December 22nd to 25th that saw two more of their games get cancelled.
The pause couldn’t have come at a worse time for Vancouver, who was riding a six-game win streak under new head coach Bruce Boudreau. With the momentum, the Canucks were able to bring themselves to just one point back of the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division, but were also forced to battle for those points with a handful of players in COVID-protocol, further re-emphasizing the importance of stopping all games temporarily.
The team was able to return to the ice on Boxing Day, giving fans and media a glimpse of what their line combinations could look like heading into their final stretch of games in December.
As expected, Boudreau didn’t make too many alterations to his winning roster, hoping that the same assignments would help continue his club’s recent success.
More importantly, the 66-year-old bench boss was fortunately able to welcome back familiar faces in Tyler Motte and Juho Lammikko, who resumed their roles on the fourth line, as well as a trio of blueliners in Luke Schenn, Tyler Myers and Tucker Poolman, all of whom were a much-needed addition back on the defensive pairings.
Brad Hunt also skated as an extra, while Jason King returned to his assistant coaching role.
Unfortunately, even with the return of this personnel, the Canucks don’t appear to be out of the COVID woods just yet.
On Sunday morning, the club found themselves without the services of Alex Chiasson, who reportedly tested positive after using a rapid antigen test prior to practice. Unlike his teammates, Chiasson wasn’t put into COVID-protocol right away, with the organization needing him to confirm his results through a PCR test first.
Regardless of what happens with Chiasson, the Canucks will still have at least a few more days to work on drills and to rediscover their legs after the holiday break.
The team was originally slated to host the Seattle Kraken on Monday night, but that contest was ultimately postponed to allow “adequate opportunity to analyze league-wide testing results”.
The same might occur for Wednesday night’s match-up in Anaheim.
The Ducks, who were also supposed to come to town on the 23rd, took to Twitter on Sunday morning, announcing that Max Comtois and Sam Steel were the two latest players to enter the team’s COVID-19 protocol. Although no official decision has been brought down from the league about Wednesday, it’s definitely not an encouraging sign given that they’re desperately trying to halt this Omicron variant spread dead in its tracks.
Anaheim’s information was also released just a few hours before the NHL made a statement of their own, confirming that teams will have additional COVID-19 roster relief from now until the All-Star break, which is currently scheduled for February 4th and 5th.
If Vancouver doesn’t end up squaring off against Anaheim on the 29th, fans will have to wait one night for Canucks hockey, when the club (hopefully) takes on the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on December 30th.
If all goes well, they’ll also be able to play their New Year’s Day contest against Seattle at Climate Pledge Arena, marking just the second meeting this season between the two geographic rivals.
The Canucks currently hold a record of 14-15-2, good for seventh in the Pacific Division and 22nd in the league, but will still need all of the stars to align for them if they seriously want to get back into the playoff conversation.
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