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Canucks Game Day in Vegas – The Bounce Back from Ugly

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Vancouver Canucks forward JT Miller addresses the media on Saturday.

The Vancouver Canucks need a win in Vegas, and they’ll try to get it with a depleted defence-corps. I’m not on site today, but based on broadcaster Brendan Batchelor’s social media post at morning skate, it appears Quinn Hughes will skate with Tyler Myers, Oliver Ekman-Larsson with Kyle Burroughs, and Brad Hunt with Madison Bowey.

Bowey was called up from Abbotsford to replace Tucker Poolman after Poolman earned a two-game suspension for a blatant high stick in the third period of the game in Colorado. Burroughs made the trip because Travis Hamonic is with the Abbotsford Canucks while waiting out Covid vaccination protocols and unable to travel. Luke Schenn is on injured reserve with a lower body injury. All five of the aforementioned are right-handed.

26-year-old Bowey is a big body, 6’2″, 205 pounds, which is a bonus against the aggressive and physically imposing Vegas Golden Knights line-up. He’s played 165 NHL games in his career with the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. With Abbotsford thus far he’s tallied one goal in nine games with 16 penalty minutes.

Some of the Vancouver Canucks looked mildly interested in competing Thursday night against the Avalanche in an embarrassing 7-1 loss. It’s sometimes kindly referred to as “no pushback”. Veteran forward and Canucks leading scorer JT Miller says the team will be ready to bounce back. Miller has six goals and ten assists in fourteen games.

“If you have games like that you have to respond,” Miller said. “It shows the identity of the team, your character, and what kind of focus we have as a group. I don’t think there’s one guy in there hanging his head. We’re all excited to play, this is a perfect game for us right now, for a test. I think it’s going to show a lot about our team identity and character how we play tonight.”

The multiple C’s is a list I’ll often bring up: Character, Chemistry, Commitment, Courage and Coaching. If those items all project positively, your team will win some hockey games. The courage element has changed over the years, and although the extracurricular “violence” isn’t what it once was in the NHL, players have to withstand various levels of physicality and remain hard to play against. That’s a box the Vancouver Canucks need to tick on a consistent basis. They also obviously need to continue improving their special teams, with both the power play and penalty kill getting off to slow starts this season.

“Look forward,” Miller stated.

The Canucks can’t afford to dwell on the debacle in Denver. His coach agrees.

“As a player, if you don’t play well, you don’t sleep well at night, and if your team doesn’t win it makes it even worse,” Canucks Head Coach Travis Green said. “Looking for a response out of our group tonight, it’s gonna be a good atmosphere in here, a playoff-like atmosphere. It’s a good hockey team we’re playing and when you come into Vegas you know you have to be ready to play.”

The bottom-six forward group takes on a different look. From left to right on the third line, Jason Dickinson, Elias Pettersson, and Brock Boeser. Below them Justin Bailey, Juho Lammikko, and Alex Chiasson. Chiasson hasn’t played since November 5th at home against Nashville.

If this alignment works out and everyone finds their game, it would mean legitimate scoring threats from throughout the top three lines.

The Canucks can’t look too far forward, not even to Sunday when they’ll play again at 5 pm pacific in Anaheim against the Ducks. It’s the cliche’ one game, one period, one shift at a time.

“Excited to play. Anytime you have a game like that you’re antsy or hungry to get back to another game,” Green added.

It’s not an existential crisis for the Canucks just yet.

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