After 166 days, the Vancouver Canucks are finally able to play a regular season game again.
The team hit the road on Tuesday afternoon, gearing up for their away game against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night to kick off the 2022-23 campaign.
It should come to no one’s surprise that there’s a high amount of pressure heading into Wednesday’s season opener, with the Canucks looking to bounce back from last year’s disappointing results.
The Canucks had one of the worst starts in the entire league, going 8-15-2 in their first 25 games while also putting up a putrid and historically-low penalty kill of just 64.6%.
The team did manage to turn their game around in early December following the addition of head coach Bruce Boudreau, but still spent the remainder of the year in catch-up mode, while also battling a slew of injuries that shortened their bench.
The Canucks ended up finishing five points back of the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference, marking the sixth time in seven years that the club missed the postseason dance.
As expected, all eyes are on this organization to see if they can start off on the right foot this time around, with much of the focus on how Boudreau and co. will construct the opening night line combinations.
According to General Manager Patrik Allvin, the team will still be without Tyler Myers and Travis Dermott on the blueline. Myers is expected to be sidelined for the next 2-3 weeks as a result of a preseason lower-body injury, while Dermott’s return timeline is still up in the air.
The Canucks will also have to wait for the debut of Ilya Mikheyev. The former Toronto Maple Leaf forward, who inked a four-year, $19 million contract earlier this summer, was seen practicing in a non-contact jersey earlier this week, but won’t be available for Wednesday night, opening the door for players like Andrei Kuzmenko, Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander to make their mark in the top-nine rotation.
The Canucks did receive some good injury news, however, as forward Brock Boeser is expected to play on Wednesday night. The Minnesota native was supposed to to miss 3-4 weeks following successful hand surgery at the end of September, but it appears that the recovery went much better than initially predicted.
Boeser will likely slot onto the top line next to J.T. Miller and Tanner Pearson, while also occupying a role on the team’s second powerplay unit.
The Canucks will also have the services of Quinn Hughes and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, both of whom were given a few maintenance days over the past week, as well as Riley Stillman, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks via trade on Friday.
Thatcher Demko is expected to start between the pipes, and will need to replicate his stellar play from last year to make sure that opposing superstars like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl stay off the scoresheet.
Puck drop is set for 7:00pm PST at Rogers Place.
What are your thoughts heading into Wednesday’s season opener? Let us know in the comments!