Can the Vancouver Canucks find success in Smashville?
The team will be looking to continue their winning ways on Tuesday night, facing off against Filip Forsberg and the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. It’s been a decent road trip for the Canucks so far, with the players able to compete well against their opponents at even strength for most part, which led to their 4-2 victory in Washington on Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, the Canucks still weren’t able to secure all of the results that they desperately needed, dropping the first three contests against Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina, in large part to their struggling special teams and poor blueline depth.
Nonetheless, team took to the ice on Tuesday morning, giving fans and media a glimpse at the possible line combinations in Nashville.
Like we’ve seen too often before, the Canucks were once again short a player during their morning practice, with captain Bo Horvat becoming the latest forward to join the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
With Horvat’s absence, head coach Bruce Boudreau was forced to adjust his line combinations, particularly in the top-six forward rotation.
The most notable change occurred down the middle, with Elias Pettersson returning to the centre position. Of course, this won’t be a huge adjustment for the young Swede, who has played the position since his first year in Vancouver, but it may not be as beneficial for the team.
After registering just 17 points in his first 37 games, Boudreau decided it was time to shake things up for the struggling Pettersson, ultimately moving him to the wing on Sunday. The adjustment seemed to work wonders for the former Calder Trophy winner, who potted two goals in the second period.
With Horvat and Garland in self-isolation, Boudreau was also forced to tinker with his bottom-six groupings. The 67-year-old bench boss promoted the successful trio of Matthew Highmore, Tyler Motte and Juho Lammikko up to the third line, while Justin Dowling, Jason Dickinson and Alex Chiasson rounded out the fourth line.
Thatcher Demko will get the nod between the pipes, facing off against David Rittich on the other end.
With Halak not available, don’t be surprised if Boudreau runs with Demko as often as he can. The 26-year-old has stumbled a bit during this road trip, going 1-3-0 with a .875 SV% and 3.55 GAA, but was also relied upon to play four games in six nights, which is never an easy task.
Fortunately, Demko didn’t appear to shown any signs of fatigue on Sunday, stopping 31 of 33 shots faced, including a series of key stops in the second period.
Regardless of how Demko performs on Tuesday, the entire team will have their hands full for the final contest of this road trip. Nashville currently sits third in the Central Division, going 5-3-1 since December 27th, in addition to posting the fifth-best powerplay percentage in the entire league during that span.
Vancouver, on the other hand, currently sits seventh in the Pacific Division with 37 points, seven back of San Jose, who currently holds the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Puck drop is set for 5:00pm PST.
What are your thoughts heading into Tuesday’s contest in Nashville? Make sure to drop a comment below!