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Canucks Practice, Walking Wounded, “Petey” Speaks, Calling All Centres!

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Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson signs autographs after practice Friday.

The Vancouver Canucks practiced today (Friday) in Burnaby a day before they host the high flying Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks are coming off Thursday nights 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. They are 0-and-2 thus far to start their seven-game homestand.

It obviously won’t get any easier. Despite the Oilers experiencing their first loss of the season Wednesday night at the hands of those same Flyers, Edmonton is 5-and-1 on the season and features two of the NHL’s top five scorers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid is on top with 15 points, Draisaitl is tied for fourth with 12. Depending on the situation and whether it’s home or road, sometimes they play together, sometimes they don’t.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks have been rotating through injuries. Centreman Jason Dickinson last played 13:18 in Seattle against the Kraken. The summer free agent acquisition has one point, a goal in Chicago, in six games played.

“Yeah, he’s close, I’m not sure if he’s going to play tomorrow or not,” Canucks Head Coach Travis Green said. “We had to get him into a practice today and see how he feels tomorrow, talk to the trainers and see how he feels when he gets up tomorrow.”

Another forward, Matthew Highmore, who can play centre or wing, was injured in the Flyers match Thursday night. Green said it was “upper body” and he’s expected to be out at least a week, or “awhile”. Highmore played the first two periods of the game but did not come out for the third. There was no obvious sign of discomfort when the team left the ice after 40 minutes. He had taken an awkward hit from two Flyers along the right wing half boards in the offensive zone at the 6:13 mark and later had his stick chopped out of his hands, but he continued playing.

Nic Petan has been called up from the Abbotsford Canucks to fill the slot. He has two goals in two games played at the AHL level.

Justin Dowling is on injured reserve. Another centre option, he last played in Seattle Saturday night where he scored the empty net goal that wrapped up the 4-2 victory. Dowling played the full game with 14:42 in ice time, but hasn’t practiced or played since after being replaced on the active roster by Justin Bailey.

Injured defenceman Tucker Poolman, who left during the second period of the Minnesota Wild game on Tuesday night, skated with the team at practice Friday for the first time since the injury.

In the long term department, it appears Canucks forward Tyler Motte should be making an appearance at practice during the homestand. Motte, who was highly effective in the 2020 playoff bubble on the Canucks run to the second round after missing part of that season with a shoulder injury, missed training camp and the preseason this year following summer surgery.

It’s been status quo on Brandon Sutter’s illness recovery while until-recently-awol defenceman Travis Hamonic is skating with Abbotsford.

The most important negative factor coming out of the aforementioned is the sudden lack of depth up the middle. Toss in the team’s general inability to win draws, although it has been getting better lately, now at 48.9% for the season, and the pivot options for Green’s line juggles are very limited. Petan offers another option if he dresses.

“Well, he could be, if we go that way,” Green said shrugging. “or, we, I’m not sure which way we’re gonna go, we’ll see where Dickinson is at. If he doesn’t play … we’ll go another route.”

By the way, Bo Horvat leads the NHL in draws taken (193) and also draws won (107), with a very respectable winning percentage of 55.4%. With a fraction of those face-off attempts, Dowling had actually been winning 57.1% of his confrontations. Elias Pettersson has been exiled from taking draws in a lot of cases, giving way to linemate JT Miller. “Petey” wins just 31.3% while Dickinson hadn’t been much better at 37.7%. EEEK! That’s called dragging down the numbers. Oh, and giving up puck possession.

Pettersson spoke on the face-off topic for a full two minutes with the media earlier this week. Friday his comments were more on improving his overall game and contributing offensively. He has a grand total of two assists, both on the power play, over his last six games. Only one of his four points this season has come at even strength.

“Of course it’s frustrating, it is what it is, I’m not gonna shy away or blame anyone,” Pettersson said. “I’m just gonna try and play better next game.”

Brock Boeser is another high-end forward off to a slow start, with just one goal and one assist in the five games he has played since returning from a lower body injury that forced him to miss the first three games of the season.

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