Nothing like some good ol’ Saturday morning hockey for the Vancouver Canucks.
The team will be heading into game three of their five-game road trip, facing off against Sebastian Aho and the Carolina Hurricanes. It has been a decent start to the trip, with the Canucks showcasing speed, physicality and determination against the league’s top two teams in Florida and Tampa Bay.
However, the Canucks didn’t manage to secure any points between those two contests, dropping their record below .500 to 16-17-3, and will be looking to bounce back in the standings against the Canes.
The players hit the ice for practice on Friday morning at PNC Arena, allowing head coach Bruce Boudreau to tinker with his roster prior to the first of their back-to-back contests this weekend.
We’ve seen the 67-year-old bench boss experiment with numerous line combinations this past week, including moving Elias Pettersson back to the left wing, as well as pairing up the young guns in Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander, but there’s no doubt that his most successful move has been bringing together Tyler Motte, Matthew Highmore and Juho Lammikko.
The trio has been Vancouver’s most consistent line during this road trip, combining for seven points in the past two games, which was highlighted by this eye-popping, between-the-legs tally from Motte to cut Tampa Bay’s lead early in this third period.
Highmore and Lammikko contributed with the assists.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s great to see consistent contribution from the fourth line, especially after it was harped on by Boudreau early on in his tenure, but it’s time for the big guns, such as J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Conor Garland, to step up and carry the offensive load.
After combining for 32 points between December 6th and January 1st, these four players went scoreless in their Florida match-ups. Same goes for Pettersson, who continues to struggle and lack confidence, even under the new team’s new coaching regime.
No matter how Boudreau decides to configure his top-nine, they’ll need to find a collective way to put the puck in the back of the net, which won’t be an easy task against Saturday’s opponents.
The Hurricanes currently hold a goals against per games played average of 2.32, as well as a PK success rate of 90.1%, both of which put them atop the league in those respective categories. On the flip side, Vancouver sits 28th in the league in goals for per games played average this season, and has been blanked on the powerplay for two consecutive games.
Carolina is also coming off of an embarrassing 6-0 blowout home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, so don’t be surprised if these bunch of jerks will show up hungry to win on Saturday.
Boudreau didn’t reveal who will be between the pipes on Saturday, but did confirm that Thatcher Demko will get a day off this weekend. The team’s All-Star representative has come back down to Earth on this road trip, falling victim to the league’s juggernauts and posting a 0-2-0 record with a 8.26 SV% and 4.11 GAA as a result.
Boudreau also mentioned that blueliner Kyle Burroughs will be inserted into the line-up at some point, likely replacing fellow depth defenceman Brad Hunt.
Puck drop is set for 10:00am PST.
What are your thoughts heading into Saturday morning’s contest in Carolina? Make sure to drop a comment below!