The Vancouver Canucks are down a couple of right-shot defencemen. Travis Hamonic continues his apparent Covid vaccination protocol adventure with the AHL Abbotsford Canucks while Luke Schenn went on injured reserve with a lower body injury. Jack Rathbone, a lefty, was called up to Vancouver with Hamonic unable to travel and it leaves the D-corps thinned to say the least.
Expect Tyler Myers, Tucker Poolman and Kyle Burroughs on the right side this evening against Burroughs’s former team, the Colorado Avalanche, a club also suffering through some injury woes.
The biggest news came Wednesday with the announcement that superstar centre Nathan MacKinnon would miss about three weeks with a lower body injury. He suffered the setback during a game Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. MacKinnon had missed the team’s first two games of the season due to Covid-19 protocols but had since tallied ten points in eight games.
Forward Valeri Nichushkin, who’s missed nine games after playing in the opener, and defenceman Cale Makar, who missed the last two matches, remain questionable but likely for tonight’s game.
Both teams are one game under modern .500, with the Vancouver Canucks in 7th place in the Pacific Division, 5-6-and-2 for 12 points, and the Avalanche 6th in the Central Division at 4-5-and-1 for 9 points. You’ll note Colorado has played three less games.
The Canucks are coming off an inadequate, to put it nicely, seven-game homestand in which they finished with a record of 2-4-and-1, salvaging that last point with a frantic late 3rd-period comeback and overtime loss Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks. The Canucks played very well in that game, have dominated stretches of most games at five-on-five, and recently began pulling away from their special teams woes.
The Canucks power play was the source of much hand wringing early this season until its 3-for-6 night against the Dallas Stars this past Sunday. On Tuesday against the Ducks, Vancouver’s first unit moved the puck well on their first opportunity but failed to score and went 0-for-2 overall. The Canucks penalty kill held the Ducks power play to 1-for-4 on the night, killing the final three man advantages successfully, but the team still sits 30th in the NHL in terms of short-handed efficiency.
Surprisingly, the Avalanche power play has stunk this early season at just 10.5%. Losing MacKinnon won’t help.
The Avalanche will be well rested, coming off a four day break with only one game played in the last seven days. The Canucks flew into Denver on Wednesday and will try to acclimate quickly to playing in the “Mile-high city”. They then head to Las Vegas and Anaheim for back-to-back road games on Saturday and Sunday, finishing up a quick stretch of three games in four nights before returning home.
Expect to see starting goaltenders Thatcher Demko for the Vancouver Canucks and Darcy Kuemper for the Colorado Avalanche.