The Vancouver Canucks will try to avoid being struck by lightning on Thursday.
The team will continue their tour of Florida on Thursday night, facing off against Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. It wasn’t an ideal start to the road trip for Vancouver, who fell to the Panthers on Tuesday night to end their nine-game point streak. On paper, it appeared to be a lop-sided affair, with Florida scoring a pair of quick back-to-back goals before sealing the deal with a shorthanded tally right before the second intermission.
However, the Canucks made sure not to go down without a fight in the final frame, actually outshooting their opponent 20-7, while also throwing their weight around until the last whistle, something we rarely witnessed from the players under the guidance of former bench boss Travis Green.
Yes, Tuesday’s loss was still a blunt reminder of what an actual top-tier NHL team looks like, and it’s going to be a consistent wake-up call throughout Vancouver’s remaining games on this trip but, now that the team was able to shake off the rust and rediscover their legs, it’ll be curious to see how they bounce back heading into Amalie Arena.
The players took to the ice on Wednesday for their morning practice, giving fans and media a glimpse of how the team might structure themselves against the Bolts.
With Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Jason Dickinson no longer in COVID protocol, head coach Bruce Boudreau has much more to work with in his top-nine rotation. Despite Tuesday’s loss, however, it appears that he might be opting to go with the same line combinations against Florida.
Höglander only registered a team-low 9:56 TOI, while Pettersson was once again held scoreless with two shots in just over 17 minutes of ice time.
The trio also combined for a minus eight on the night.
With Travis Hamonic still on the sidelines, Boudreau will also be forced to go with the same defensive pairings, led by Quinn Hughes. The 22-year-old has had a tremendous bounce-back season so far, accounting for 28 of the blueline’s 60 points this year, and there’s no doubt that he’ll still need to keep up this strong offensive pace in order for his team to continue to long climb into the playoff conversation.
Hughes has thrived under Boudreau’s coaching regime, amassing eight assists in nine games, but was held off the scoresheet on Tuesday.
The Canucks will also be without defenceman Ashton Sautner for likely the remainder of the road trip. The 27-year-old, who is currently on the team’s taxi squad, entered COVID-19 protocol on Wednesday. Sautner became the 12th player to enter protocol this year.
Thatcher Demko will get the nod between the pipes. The NHL’s third star for the month of December wasn’t his usual god-like self against Florida, falling victim to multiple screens and deflections throughout the night, but expect him to bounce back tonight against Andrei Vasilevskiy.
With a victory tonight, Vancouver would be able to move one point back of the Edmonton Oilers, who currently sit sixth in the Pacific Division. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, are looking to leap frog over Florida for the top spot in the entire league.
Puck drop is set for 4:00pm PST.
What are your thoughts heading into Thursday night’s contest against Tampa Bay? Make sure to drop a comment below!