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Canucks Win, Injury Rash, Roster Fights, What Cross Check!?

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March 10, 2020, that’s the last time fans were inside Rogers Arena to watch a Vancouver Canucks game. Sunday, based on British Columbia provincial Covid regulations, a half-capacity crowd was allowed in, consisting exclusively of season ticket members and guests. They watched the Canucks defeat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2.

Of the goal highlights, Nic Petan’s twister wrister from the high slot through a D-man screen at 5:03 of the 2nd period was the niftiest.

“Long sauce pass from “Millsy” (JT Miller) to “Bowz” (Madison Bowie) and Bowz had his head up right away and saw me come through the middle and I just tried to get it off quick,” Petan explained.

Before the game Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning said forward Brock Boeser would miss the rest of the preseason due to injury. Brandon Sutter will not be ready for the start of the regular season. He’s been undergoing tests and will be back once he’s “feeling better”.  Tyler Motte is still recuperating from off-season surgery and won’t be available. Benning said he expects defenceman Travis Hamonic to join the club at some point but provided no details. Benning was asked if there was a preferred resolution in terms of salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) provisions should Hamonic and his $3-million cap hit not be here for the start of the regular season.

“This is a daily thing we’re going through now, we don’t have an answer for that, all the different scenarios as of right now,” Benning answered. “There’s a chance everything works out and he’ll be here for the start of the year. If it doesn’t, we’re gonna work with the guys we have here, the group we have here and it opens up opportunities for someone else. I can’t speculate as to where it’s gonna end up. We’ll continue to work with his agent and hopefully he gets in here at some point. Last week Benning had no comment on reports of his attempts to trade Hamonic.

When asked if his team was fully vaccinated, Benning said, “I’m not going to comment on that right now, we’re close to one-hundred percent.” Since everyone who’s been in camp falls in the vaxxed category, based on process of elimination that would very likely leave … Hamonic. Right wing Justin Bailey tested positive for Covid crossing the border before camp and is believed to still be in the United States.

With projected penalty killers Motte and Sutter sidelined, the “replacement” units have done pretty well lately. Phil Di Guiseppe and Jason Dickinson were particularly effective Friday night in Calgary. Sunday, the first unit consisted of Miller and Petan up front with Madison Bowie and Kyle Burroughs behind them. Di Guiseppe and Justin Dowling were up front on the 2nd unit. They held the Jets scoreless on the PP as Winnipeg went 0-for-3.

“Good to see, because we’re gonna need to see some different bodies, newer bodies killing penalties this year with some of the guys that have left,” Head Coach Travis Green said before the game. “Everyone talks, media people tend to talk about the power play, ‘who scores the goals on the power play’, and ‘you need this on the power play’. Well, the penalty kill is the exact same thing, if you don’t have a good kill, it’s just like the power play. It’s an important part of the game, we’ve been working on it and we’ve been trying some different guys who might get to try it in the regular season.”

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks power play had plenty of looks but went 0-for-7 Sunday. The first unit to start the party that fizzled was Miller, Nils Höglander, Alex Chiasson, Petan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. “First one was really good,” Green said. “Four minute one wasn’t very sharp.”

It’s always a pleasure to chat with Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice and VHN had an opportunity to do so before Sunday’s game. Maurice, the 2nd longest tenured head coach in the NHL behind Jon Cooper in Tampa, felt our Tucker Poolman assessment was spot on. Teams are often described as having a “lack of identity”, how about Poolman as a defenceman being in the same boat. He seems to love to jump up but is he really an offensive defenceman?  Maurice said when he was in Winnipeg, Poolman’s biggest issue was untimely nagging injuries. Maurice said when he was healthy Poolman was productive to the right of partner Josh Morrissey, even against the likes of Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

The topic WILL come up early in the regular season; the NHL’s planned crackdown this season on cross checking. And yes, while whatever re-calibration of the new enforcement takes place, we’ll see some unusual calls and the inevitable complaints. Referee Kelly Sutherland’s call on Canucks defenceman Burroughs at 4:17 of the 3rd period for his infraction against Jansen Harkins of Winnipeg was more of a shove. We’ll see, but expect to hear more about this early in the NHL season as players adjust.

While the line-up Sunday included that mixed-up, wacky world of preseason line combinations, there was some basic practicality to the proceedings. While Jack Rathbone seems a step ahead of any competition for left-side third pair D, the battle remains tight in the bottom-six up front. William Lockwood and Chiasson both got another look on the right side Sunday. Chiasson is the team’s Professional Try-out (PTO) participant at camp.

“He’s had a good camp so far, we’ll continue to watch him during these exhibition games to see,” Benning said. “At the end of camp we’ll sit down as a group and talk about it.”

Here was the Vancouver Canucks line-up Sunday.

Tanner Pearson  Bo Horvat  Nils Höglander

JT Miller  Nic Petan  Alex Chiasson

Vasili Podkolzin  Carson Focht  William Lockwood

Phillip Di Giuseppe  Justin Dowling  Conor Garland

Oliver Ekman-Larsson  Tucker Poolman

Jack Rathbone  Madison Bowie

Brad Hunt  Kyle Burroughs

Jaroslav Halak (1st and 2nd period)

Mike Dipietro

 

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